The Heart As God’s Temple

As we celebrate the feast of The Meeting of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple we realize that the Temple’s purpose was fulfilled – it became the place where God came to earth.  But now Christ is the living temple and so the Temple as a building or area was no longer needed.  In a certain sense, its destruction was a natural result of the fact that it had become superfluous in the life of the people of God.  Christ is everything the Temple was ever meant to be or symbolize.  This idea is already reflected in early Christian writings.  Origen (martyred in 254AD) writes that all of the purpose of the temple ended with the coming of Christ.  The destruction of the Temple was simply eliminating something no longer needed for salvation:

“But when the Word became flesh and lived among us (Jn 1:14), his earthly presence in Jerusalem, with its temple and altar and everything that was borne there, was torn down, at that time her [Israel’s] husband died, i.e., the law according to the letter.  Or will it not rightly be said in this section that the message of the law is dead, since no sacrifices, no priesthood, and no ministries associated with the Levitical order are being offered?  It cannot punish the murderer or stone the adulteress, for the Roman authorities avenge themselves on these things.

Do you still doubt whether the law according to the letter is dead?  No male goes up to appear before the Lord three times a year (Ex 23:17; 34:23; Dt 16:16); no sheep is being slaughtered at the Passover festival in the city that is believed the Lord God had chosen (Dt 16:2); no offering of the piles of first-fruits are being celebrated; no leprous diseases and no defilement of sin are being cleansed.  It is possible to doubt in all these things that the letter of the law is dead?”  (COMMENTARY ON THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS Books 6-10, p 25)

For Origen, the Temple served a similar purpose as the Old Testament Scriptures – they were the covering or flesh of the pre-incarnate Word of God.  But when the Word became flesh in Jesus Christ the shadow of the law as well as the Temple was no longer needed for the Word no longer needed such a covering as He had been fully revealed.  He no loner was hidden in the written word or in the Temple.  Now God was present in Christ in the world.  And Origen realizes that even all that was written about the Temple really was prophecy about Christ.  Jesus has entered the real Temple in heaven as is described in the book of Hebrews (Hebrews 9:11-12, 24).  As Roman Catholic scholar Louis Bouyer says:

“… from now on the Shekinah no longer simply dwells in a sanctuary in the midst of its people: it makes their reconciled hearts its sanctuary.”  (EUCHARIST, p 39)

The Feast of the Lord entering the Temple in Jerusalem is the beginning of God coming to dwell in the hearts of His people rather than in a building, which could never contain Him (2 Chronicles 2:6, 6:18).   No longer do we need concern ourselves with a temple in Jerusalem, for now each of our hearts becomes God’s dwelling place.

For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.” (Isaiah 57:15)

Heaven and Earth are Full Of God’s Glory

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all their host by the breath of his mouth.   (Psalms 33:6)

The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.  (Psalms 19:1)

His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise.   (Habakkuk 3:3)

One of the most wonderful things to contemplate from the Scriptures are relationships.  We have of course the mysterious relationship between Creator and creation.  Then within the Godhead there is the relationship of the Three Persons of the Holy TrinityFather, Son and Holy Spirit.  Each of the Persons of the Trinity has a relationship with creation.  In Genesis 1:1-3, the Spirit (the Breath of God) hovers over the face of the earth and when God speaks the Word (the Son of God), Light comes into existence, but not the light of the sun which does not yet exist.

“It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth . . .”   (Exodus 31:17)

Then there is the relationship between heaven and earth and the relationship of both heaven and earth to the Creator.   Heaven is the mysterious abode of God, and yet it is related to the rest of creation, all of it together is “not God” but created by God.  According to Christ, “Heaven and earth will pass away” (Matthew 24:35), they are not eternal and yet God the Eternal One fills them with His glory and becomes united to them.   Heaven and earth are both dwelling places.  Dwellings are temporary places, and yet significant to our eternal God.  We see the mystery in these two statements by father and son.  King David declares part of the wonder and glory of God on earth, while his son Solomon realizes the inadequacy of the earth for fulfilling its role.

King David says: “O LORD, I love the house in which you dwell, and the place where your glory abides.”  (Psalms 26:8)

King Solomon says: “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built!”  (1 Kings 8:27)

The exact relationship of God the Creator to God’s own creation defies easy explanation and yet we still can experience it, as we sing in the Liturgy:

“Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest. “

Heaven and earth, though created, are full of God’s glory.  Both heaven and earth are full of God’s glory and both proclaim God’s glory to all beings who are capable of hearing and seeing.

 Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the LORD.  (Jeremiah 23:24)

Not only does God’s glory fill heaven and earth, the Lord God fills heaven and earth.  God’s glory is not something other than God.   Creation, that which is “not God” is filled by God’s glory by God’s existence.  The relationship between God and that which is “not God” is a mystery indeed.  For how can God in whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28) fill the heaven and earth which are created and circumscribed by God?  We are in God and God is in us! A relationship fully exemplified by Mary the Theotokos.  Mary like Christ, each in their own way, personify the mystery of the interpenetration of Creator and creation.

Then we have St Irenaeus saying: “The glory (shekinah) of God is a human being fully alive.”  So how can heaven and earth be full of a human being?  The mystery deepens for  it is Christ as the incarnate God  who fills the universe with Himself.  So St Paul can write:  “and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith . . . that you may be filled with all the fulness of God.”  Christ fills not only the entire universe but each of us.

all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD   (Numbers 14:21)

Blessed be his glorious name forever; may his glory fill the whole earth.  Amen and Amen.   (Psalms 72:19)

Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”  (Isaiah 6:2-3)

Our very existence makes us part of the mystery of God’s own relationship with all of creation.  We experience the glory of God, perhaps most intently and clearly in the Liturgy, but that should open our eyes to seeing God’s glory in all of creation including in our fellow human beings.  It is also why the Fall, sin  and the fallen world are so painful to us for they obscure the glory of God reducing everything to mere materiality void of its natural spirituality.

Yours, O LORD, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all.   (1 Chronicles 29:11)

Humanity: The Shekinah of God

Christ the Wisdom of God

“The wisdom of God

is revealed in His becoming

by nature a true man.”

(St. Maximos the Confessor)

“The true Shekinah of God is man.”

(St. John Chrysostom)

Shekinah according to the Jewish Encyclopedia means, “The majestic presence or manifestation of God which has descended to “dwell” among men.”  Others say Shekinah implies God’s glory which is His presence.  Both the quotes by St. Maximos and St. Chrysostom say that God’s glory and presence and wisdom is found in humanity.  The incarnation of the Word of God being the ultimate proclamation of this truth.

King David with Wisdom and Prophecy