The Tabernacle of the Heart: Where Christ Abides Within Us

“I know you will welcome me into your house,
for I am covered by your covenant of mercy and love.
So I come to your sanctuary with deepest awe
to bow in worship and adore you.”  (Ps 5:3f. TPT)

In these days I connect with my parents with a video call each afternoon. It has been a year since I’ve been with them and it may be another year or more before I am able to go home. Being together that 20 minutes each afternoon is a gift. As the weeks go by, however, I know they are wishing they could just hug me close and bring me into their apartment, keep me safe with them, and just…be…together. Close together.

I find myself dreaming of what it will be like…that day when I can walk into their apartment once more and be wrapped in their protective hugs…

“I know you will welcome me into your house…”

This forced separation from others is making me more sensitive to the intense longing to please them, to serve them, to protect them, to hold them, to be held by them, to be welcomed and wanted, my heart watered by their tears and warmed by the sunshine of their smiles. We are all really one after all. I am beginning to sense that.

“I know you will welcome me into your house…”

We have been suffering also, many of us, from an enforced separation from the house of the Lord. Although I have a chapel in my “house” here at the convent, I worry about those who haven’t had the experience for so long of being welcomed by Christ into his house through the Eucharist celebrated as a parish on Sundays and even, for some, each day. And even if we have the immense privilege of once again going into God’s house, we cannot be close to each other.

We all need this divine welcome, even more than we need the hugs we so long for from loved ones from whom we are separated.

“So I come to your sanctuary with deepest awe
to bow in worship and adore you.”

The sanctuary lamp that has burned continually during this pandemic next to the tabernacle is the sentinel that at once announces the presence of Christ in the Eucharist and keeps him company with the flickering of a single candle representing our hearts’ desire to be with him who won for us our salvation.

God’s own love for humanity compels him to take the initiative in providing for humanity this opportunity to experience his welcome, to be comforted by his compassionate abiding, to find the way to return to him in Jesus Christ his Son.

The tabernacle in our Churches, the sanctuary lamp that bravely remains lit in the dark to point the way to the Savior, announces the meeting between heaven and earth, of God and man, of divinity and humanity, of justice and mercy, of wisdom and ignorance, of mercy and sin.

St. Ephrem writes:

When the Lord came down to earth to mortal beings
   He created them again, a new creation, like the angels,
mingling within them Fire and Spirit. (Faith 10:9)

Mary’s womb was the first “tabernacle” or abode for Jesus. How the strings of her heart were tuned to the Father of the One who had been conceived in her. She could hear the Father’s every whisper, feel the import of his every desire. She went with haste to serve her cousin Elizabeth. She went without fear into Egypt. She went without resentment to walk with her Son to Calvary. She went without sadness to the mount from which Jesus would ascend to the Father.

St. Ephrem asserts:

“The Power of the Father, compelled by His love,
descended and dwelt in a virgin womb.”

This same Love dwells in the abode of the Tabernacle in your parish Church. He is as active in the Tabernacle as he was in the womb of Mary.

When we receive Jesus in Holy Communion, he “tabernacles” within our hearts. He takes up there his abode with the Father and the Spirit. Mary, who carried him in her womb for nine months, can teach us how to be attentive to him, led by him, welcomed by him.

“I have found heaven on earth, since heaven is God, and God is in my soul” (St Elizabeth of the Trinity).

Photo Credit: Juan Pablo Arias