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 …


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?


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.


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.