The word of the day is “cornerstone.” What should be the foundation of the church and our very lives? With what should we orient our communities of faith and ourselves? In today’s reading of 1 Peter 1:1-2, 10-12, 2:6-10, the apostle writes, “Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame’” (OSB 1 Peter 2:6). Today we learn that this prophecy refers to Jesus Christ and that we should conform the church and ourselves to Him.
The Prophecy of Isaiah
The origin of the metaphor of the cornerstone is the prophecy of Isaiah, “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily [Septuagint, shall not be ashamed]’” (OSB Isaiah 28:16).
Here already is the promise of the Messiah who would be the foundation of “Zion,” the People of God. Whoever would trust in this God’s Anointed One would not endure shame (LXX) or have to make haste in alarm (Strong’s 2363).
The Teaching of Ephesians
In Ephesians, Paul speaks of the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “Now therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone in which the whole building is being fitted together…” (OSB Ephesians 2:21).
In this teaching, the church is the “household of God.” The apostles and prophets are its foundation, and Jesus Crist is the chief cornerstone. In Him, the whole church is fitted together and “grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (OSB Ephesians 2:19-21).
The Cornerstone in 1 Peter
In our reading, the apostle notes that the metaphor of Christ the cornerstone fulfills another prophecy, “… for you [God] have heard me, and you became my salvation. The stone the builders rejected has become the head of the corner. And this came about from the Lord and it is wonderful in our eyes” (OSB Psalm 117 (118) 21b-23).
The Stone that Serves as the Foundation and Alignment of a Building
In summary, in these passages, the cornerstone is applied to Zion (the People of God), to whoever believes in Him (the cornerstone), to the “household of God,” and, though rejected, the “Head of the Corner.” What, then, is a “cornerstone” that makes it a suitable metaphor for Christ? In ancient times, the cornerstone was the crucial foundation of a building. It was large and solid and dressed with care to be perfectly square. It was laid with great ceremony because it was the key to the whole building. The edifice’s durability and stability depended on it. Moreover, it was the guide for the structure’s construction. Like a T-square, it was the standard that ensured that the building was square and its sides were parallel.
So then by analogy, Christ is more than the solid foundation of the church and our lives. The Lord Jesus is the T-square by which we line our church and ourselves up with His righteousness, truth, and will. Others may reject Him, but when they do, they are rejecting the only solid basis and reliable guideline for our lives as well as the church.
For Reflection: the Cornerstone Applied to Our Lives
If we would make Christ the cornerstone of our lives, we must choose Him above all else. We cannot set Him alongside other interests, aims, and hopes. If we put other things on the same level, we will not build a life that has a firm foundation or that is straight and true. Rather if Christ be our cornerstone, then we will construct ourselves and our lives in Him. If Christ be our cornerstone, then we will sync our thoughts with His teachings. We will align our conduct with His commandments. And we will measure all our endeavors with His will.