The Abode of Heaven

“Truly this woman is the abode of heaven.” (from today’s Kontakion celebrating the Feast of the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple).

In a recent essay I was comparing the preferred metaphors of salvation within the Presbyterian & Reformed churches (being adopted into the family of God) and the Orthodox churches (being joined to Christ and engrafted into his life).

In today’s Kontakion (cited above) another metaphor is found that expresses this same mystery. But in order to appreciate the metaphor we must remember that Mary, the Theotokos, Jesus’ mother, is the archetypal Christian and as such is a symbol or sign of the Church as a whole. Mary is us just as we are Mary, and when we call her blessed (as she herself says that we will, Lk 1:48) we are blessing the Church itself, the Body of Christ, which we do because God himself is blessed now and forever.

In her pregnancy, she was not merely a vehicle of God’s salvation, but rather for that time was the very abode of God, her womb the Creator’s throne as all creation awaited the revelation of their King and Maker.

It makes the idea of inviting Jesus into my heart (certainly no trivial matter!) sound almost trivial in contrast to the immense implications of the Kontakion: “Truly this woman is the abode of heaven.”

When our children ask us where heaven is, do we vaguely point “out there” implying that God’s house is far away? Or do we drop our chin into our chest (as the monks do when they pray) and look deep inside to the very center of our being, saying, “The whole expanse of heaven is here, my child.”

(Well, okay, maybe we wouldn’t do precisely that; it would probably confuse the little tikes and make our adolescents think we were loony.)

Ah, but isn’t there something slightly daft in saying the expanse of God indwells human flesh? Isn’t it just as daft to tell our children that Jesus can come into their hearts?

Not daft, but certainly mysterious, the ways of God: not that he would circumscribe his boundless self into our small self (as we imply when we tell our children of Jesus in their hearts), but rather that he expands the believer’s heart, the Church (ah yes, Mary!) into that which can embody the expansiveness of heaven, the very abode of God.

“Truly this woman is the abode of heaven.”