Monday, July 6, 2015

The Dwelling Place

As Jacob runs from the wrath of his brother Esau, after having tricked his father into giving him the blessing that rightly belonged to the older brother, he lays down to sleep and has a vision.

Then he had a dream: a stairway rested on the ground, with its top reaching to the heavens;
and God’s messengers were going up and down on it.And there was the LORD standing beside him

Awaking from the dream he declared the place Beth-el (literally the house of God), the dwelling place of God on earth.  In the Book of Exodus the dwelling place will become mishkan, the tabernacle, the portable dwelling that God instructs Moses to build as God accompanies the people of Israel on their journey, and when the people of Israel settle down and are able to build a temple, the tabernacle is there.

From a Christian perspective, particularly in the Orthodox Church's this scene from the Old Testament, is understood to be a foreshadowing of the incarnation,  when God would indeed come down from heaven and stand in our midst in the person of Jesus Christ.

But it is St. Paul that reminds us that with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the dwelling place of God is no longer, a single place or a single person. In 1 Cor 3:16 he asks the crucial question,

Do you not know that you yourselves are the temple of God. and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

But are we the only temple of God.  Notice that he says that the Spirit dwells in us.  Leaving the question where does the Son dwell?  In fact, we know the answer.  It is the reason that every Catholic Church has a tabernacle.  Christ, fully present in the Eucharist, is always there for us so that we like the people of Israel may worship in his presence here on earth.  The Church becomes Beth-el, the house of God.