When the night has come and the land is dark and the moon is the only light we see
No I won't be afraid, no I won't be afraid just as long as you stand, stand by me (John Lennon)
Sometimes I go into the church at night when the only light is the Sanctuary Lamp that is silent witness to the living presence of Jesus and I think of the boy Samuel who lay down to sleep in the sanctuary of the Temple more than 3,000 years ago. His is a story that resonates with anyone who has heard and followed the call of God, those of us who have sought God in Jesus, seeking out the place where He lives and staying there with Him. We have seen with the eyes of the soul and in Him we have come home.
Though Samuel was living in the Temple he “had as yet no knowledge of the Lord and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him” (1 Samuel 3) and in this it strikes me that I am invited to lay my life down in the presence of the Lord, to rest in that safe and holy place without knowledge, to leave everything I know outside and to allow myself to be taught anew as a child is open to being taught. Eager to be taught!
For in the presence of the infinite God my knowledge is nothing and He is always more that I could ever imagine. As Gerald Manley Hopkins put it in Nondum, “We guess; we clothe Thee, unseen King, With attributes we deem are meet; Each in his own imagining sets up a shadow in Thy seat.” The reality and the fullness of God is to be found in Jesus in the silence of His sanctuary, the silence of the Word, the sanctuary of the Eucharist.
We use all sorts of reasons for not coming to the sanctuary of Jesus because we fear the silence and what it might reveal to us about ourselves and about God. We are not often comfortable with who we really are and who God really is and so we busy ourselves with distraction, while the invitation remains, “come and see!” (John 1:35-42)
We do not spend all of our time in sanctuary, nor did Samuel, but we take it with us through the course of our day and the seasons of our life. We ourselves become sanctuary of the living presence of God so that, when people encounter us in any place at any time, they find the safety and holiness of God in us.
Paul reminds us, “Your body, you know, is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you since you received him from God” (1 Corinthians 6:13-20) and the invitation here is to treat our bodies as the sacred spiritual temples they are, treat them with reverence and respect – our own bodies and those of others.
But the body is a bit messed up in our time because we have lost sight of its sacredness and its spiritual dimension, its essential connection to God, its belonging to God – “You are not your own property; you have been bought and paid for. That is why you should use your body for the glory of God.”
The body is messed up because we feel we can do what we like with it, give it away to anyone we like and, worse still, we take the body of another and use it as we want to.
Even when we respect our body through diet, exercise and healthy living we often don’t recognize its spiritual dimension, it’s connection with God. The body is a beautiful sanctuary when it eats and drinks and immerses itself in God who created it in His image and likeness.
The third sanctuary for the Christian is the home – that safe and holy place where we live most of our lives; the place where the voice of God is most frequently spoken and most often heard. Sometimes the good word of God is drowned out in the noise and chaos of home.
After Christmas I spent some precious time within the sanctuary of my family and from them received the tender loving care that is refreshment for body, heart and soul. Among them I hear the voice of God’s love and expressions of love that are sometimes surprising, coming as they do from those who might not normally be so expressive.
People who know me are familiar with the exceptional bond that exists between Katie and myself. Her love for me is a perpetual and lavish outpouring. Her sister Laura whose love I do not doubt is more restrained and reserved in showing affection. But this time Laura wanted to sit close beside me and held me long when I was leaving, told me how exciting it is when I come to visit.
And, as Providence would have it, we had each other in our secret Santa. Her gift to me is enormously pleasing – a photo frame like a book, with space for two photos and stuck on the outside of the box is a fridge magnet. Her mother told me later that Laura went through all the magnets in the shop until she found the one she wanted for me and it says, “I love you to the moon and back!”
Is this not the voice of God speaking in His seven year old child and many such voices are to be heard every day if we allow ourselves to step back from the noise that often deafens us.
Eamonn Monson sac
2nd Sunday 2018