Draw near to him [i.e. Jesus], a living stone, rejected indeed by men but chosen and honored by God. Be you yourselves as living stones, built thereon into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
–1 Peter 2:4-5–
The early gothic cathedral of Laon, eighty-five miles northeast of Paris, boasts magnificent late 12th-century sculptures of Christ, Our Lady, and the saints over and around its doors and windows. High up on its towers, however, one can make out the stone images of oxen. The four-legged figures stand like dedicated sentinels, seemingly unaware of the honor that has been accorded them. Though silent, they speak volumes. Apparently the medieval masons wanted to pay tribute to their oxen. The beasts, after all, patiently hauled the cathedral’s heavy stones for miles, from quarry to building site. Thus the bovine statues give eloquent testimony to the builders’ gratitude.
The cathedral of Laon makes me think of the temple of living stones that Jesus is building of us who belong to His Church. Oh yes, Mary and the canonized saints will be given great prominence in this structure. What about the rest of us humble plodders? I firmly believe that even the most menial service we do in the name of God will receive its due recognition. Our Lord will not be outdone when it comes to showing appreciation. He will certainly reward His faithful sheep, but He will not forget His oxen!