Here is an article I wrote today for our parish's Sunday's Bulletin a few weeks ago.
From the beginning of Jesus’ life on Earth until close to the end, the Temple is the scene of many episodes. In Luke’s Gospel he is presented to the Lord as an infant and Mary and Joseph find him there when he was “lost” at age 12. We know the story of Jesus chasing out the moneychangers from the Temple. Especially toward the end of his public life he often taught in the temple precincts.
From what we can tell, the “temple precincts” or outer courts were the places where people gathered to pray, to socialize, sometimes to do business, often to discuss the Torah (the first 5 books of the Hebrew Scriptures) and other things. These outer courts were separated from the inner courts of the Temple which contained the Holy Place, the Holy of Holies and other chambers where usually only the priests entered and where they offered special prayers, burnt incense, and performed animal sacrifices and other sacred rituals. In some ways these outer courts were a “buffer” between the inner sanctuary of the Temple, which was the place where God resided on Earth, and the world outside.
Know one more thing I like about the plaza? The floor. Blue slate! Nearly the same as the floor in the Church. Father Henry Eagan, OSA in his booklet, “The Sacred Art of our Parish Church,” writes very simply: “The plaza is made of blue-stone paving which runs into the Church flooring, wedding the outside and indoor areas.” To me, walking on the blue slate of our plaza (our “buffer”) into our Church reminds us that we take the thoughts, cares, worries and joys of our life “outside” with us as we enter into our Holy of Holies to worship our God. Then walking from the slate of the Church floor onto the slate of the plaza, reminds me that the encounter with Jesus begun during the Mass continues as I bring Him with me to the “outside.”