Wonder: Mama Mary

Preston Yancey somehow writes with a rare combination: higher academic thoughts, poetic flowing content, and authentic down-to-earth questions. I think all of that is on display in his piece here today.

… and He dwells within us …

I

When God commands the building of the wilderness tabernacle in Exodus, He does not assign the task to Moses. Moses is to find a man named Bezalel, whose name means in the shadow of God, and who is said, along with those craftspeople in his service, to have ḥăḵam-lêḇ, that is, wiseheartedness. (Exodus 36:1) It is this condition of wiseheartedness that God sees as necessary to faithfully construct the place where His glory shall dwell among His people as they roam in search of their promised home. Moses, for all his calling and qualification, is not entrusted with this purpose. The purpose to make a space for God’s dwelling is a unique quality, a specialized calling, and it is entrusted to those who are said to have some unique wisdom, some particular communion with the Divine.

Interestingly, the use of ḥăḵam-lêḇ is sparse in the Hebrew Scripture. It appears a handful of times in the Proverbs, but only once elsewhere: the exceptional case of King Solomon.

We often reduce the story of Solomon to very simple terms: Solomon asked for wisdom and God gave it to him. But the Hebrew is more nuanced. Solomon asks for šōmêa‘-lêḇ—an understanding heart. (1 Kings 3:9) Because of the integrity and humility of this request, God grants him something much better, ḥăḵam-lêḇ. (1 Kings 3:12) Interestingly, it is Solomon who later builds the temple in Jerusalem, the place where the glory of God shall dwell among His people in their land.

It is the season of Advent and I am thinking of Mama Mary.

In both instances, in the construction of the wilderness tabernacle and the temple in Jerusalem, the quality of the ones responsible for creating a space for God to inhabit is the possession of wiseheartedness, this ḥăḵam-lêḇ.

What does it mean to have a wise heart, to have the wisdom from God dwell within?

II

It is the season of Advent and I am thinking of Mama Mary.

In the Eastern Orthodox tradition of icons, she is perhaps most famously known in the form of the Theotokos, the Mother of God. Often, icons of the Theotokos show Mary, robed in splendor, her stomach made transparent to reveal the child Christ, clothed in heavenly glory. She presents to the world its Redeemer, bares God within so that He may be made known without.

Within her, He dwelt. He made His home.

St. John says the word became flesh and ἐσκήνωσεν, tabernacled, among us. Within Mary, He made a tabernacle. Within Mary, He made the place where His glory dwelt. As the tabernacle of the wilderness and the temple in Jerusalem before, so now within a young girl, perhaps no more than fourteen, Mystery takes on flesh and makes body the place of His glory.

O Mary, bearer of Fire, prays St. Catherine of Siena.

III

In his first epistle to the Corinthians, St. Paul calls Jesus θεοῦ σοφίαν, the wisdom of God.

It is the season of Advent and I am thinking of Mama Mary.

I am thinking of the girl in whom Wisdom dwelt. I am thinking of the coming of Wisdom into her body, to tabernacle, to dwell.

Be it unto me according to Thy word.

This is from her, spoken to the angel, spoken unto God.

If she had said no?

I am thinking this has something to do with us.

I am thinking the condition of wiseheartedness is one that thanks to Mama Mary we may share. For Christ came through her so that we might come unto Him.

He is making us His tabernacles.

He is filling us with His wisdom, into our hearts, making us a wisehearted people.

And so we look around us in this Advent time, so we look around and wonder: where shalt we build the beautiful things unto God?

Are we looking for those places to say, Be it unto me?

Are we looking for those places into which He shalt dwell?

 


About Today's Guest Blogger: Preston Yancey

Preston Yancey is earning his Master of Letters in Theology, Imagination, and the Arts from the St. Mary’s School of Divinity at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. He runs on a diet of caffeine and God’s grace. His first book, concerning a reverential approach to Scripture, Tables in the Wilderness: Scripture and the Enchanted Creation, is under representation now. He blogs herefood blogs here, and tweets here.

 

Wonder: Rediscover the Christmas Story is an Advent series designed to help us pause and reflect on how amazing the stories of Jesus’ birth really are. To break through the cluttered busyness of the season and touch our hearts with the awe of what God has done. Let’s make this a season of wonder and worship, marveling together at our great God.

Advent Series Day 7: a place to call home

There is so much I love about camping. Waking up with trees a step away. Looking at a sky full of stars. Wandering around nature trails observing God’s creation. Listening to the crackle of a fire at night.

There are other parts I could do without. The sleeping arrangement that leaves me with a sore back. The food that requires extra planning and preparation. The bug bites that drive me insane.

Camping is fun for days, even weeks- but it would not be fun for years.

That kind of nomadic existence was the story of the Israelites for decades. First they wandered in the desert. Then they set up encampments in the Promised Land. During this time of wandering, even their worship took place in a tent, called the Tabernacle.

As time passed, the Israelites became established in the Promised Land- they defeated new enemies and gained territory. But they still did not have a center- a capital city- until King David conquered Jerusalem. After that

David then took up residence in the fortress, and so it was called the City of David.  He built up the city around it, from the terraces to the surrounding wall, while Joab restored the rest of the city. And David became more and more powerful, because the LORD Almighty was with him. – 1 Chronicles 11:7-9

Finally, a real establishment. A place that provides security, identity, and a home for them.

Yet, as King David reflects, something is missing.

 After David was settled in his palace, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under a tent.” – 1 Chronicles 17:1

David thinks that if God’s people are truly putting down their roots in Jerusalem, then Yahweh should have a temple there.

But God has something greater than the temple in mind. He speaks to Nathan

“Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the LORD says: You are not the one to build me a house to dwell in… I declare to you that the LORD will build a house for you: When your days are over and you go to be with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him, as I took it away from your predecessor. I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever; his throne will be established forever.’” -2 Chronicles 17:4,11-14

David’s dream of building a temple is admirable. It does eventually get accomplished through his son Solomon. And it holds a great significance to the people of Israel.

But God lets David know that something much grander than a temple is coming. A Messiah. A Messiah that will be born from David’s family line. A Messiah who will build a house for the Lord, and reign over it forever.

Many years later, Jesus says

 I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. – Matthew 12:6

A temple is, in a sense, an upgrade from a tabernacle. But it is still a place made by humans hands, meant to be home to the presence of God. When Jesus is born, God takes up a new residence, greater than the temple.

 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. – John 1:14

With the Messiah, God does not reside among the stones of a temple but among the bones and skin of a human. And now, if we believe in Jesus, the His Spirit resides in us. We are the house He builds.

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 2:4-5

The Messiah is greater than the temple. He is a real establishment. A place that provides security, identity, and a home for us.