A few years ago I found myself on a pilgrimage to France and strolling up to Lavalla where Saint Marcellin began his ministry and lived with the Brothers. We moved through the rooms of the first monastery and celebrated the Eucharist, gathered around their original meal table.
As communion was distributed, I had a couple of moments to simply be still with Jesus in the palm of my hand before we consumed the host together. This was a rare moment for me, as I am normally shepherding four children around and dodging fellow parishioners back to the family corner! Whilst I’ve previously spent time in Adoration and fully believe in the real presence of God in the Eucharist, for a split second I connected with what it must have been like for Mary to carry Jesus for nine months inside her.
She was the dwelling place, the temple and the mother of God. How awesome it is that we can share in this through the Eucharist and the Holy Spirit in our lives. Mary’s life is a clear example for us of being a dwelling place for community, a temple for prayer and a mother in ministry.
At the General Audience on Wednesday, 15 November 2016, Pope Benedict XVI continued his Reflections on St. Paul, focussing on the Apostle’s teaching on the Holy Spirit. The Holy Father observed “in Paul’s reflection on the Spirit he not only explained his influence on the action of Christians, but also on their being. Indeed, it is he who said that the Spirit of God dwells in us (cf. Rom 8:9; I Cor 3:16) and that “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts” (Gal 4:6). In Paul’s opinion, therefore, the Spirit stirs us to the very depths of our being.” God is more than a passive passenger travelling our earthly journey within us, He is active, responsive and prompting. Much like a baby within its mother’s womb, God transforms our entire being to become vessels which sustain and grow His love, coming to birth through our lives.
In a recent post on pray.com.au Susi Hii reflects on the 14th century German mystic Meister Eckhart, who suggests we each bear Christ in us, ‘I once had a dream in which I, even though a man, was pregnant like a woman with child. I was pregnant with nothingness; and out of this nothingness God was born.’ Hii compares Eckhart with Ron Rolheiser, who provides the opposite image: “In this life, we are like babies in the womb of God, safe, provided for but at the same restricted by the confines of the womb and unable to see God, on whom we are utterly dependent; death is our second birth into new life we can’t imagine while in the womb.”
Hii acknowledges that it is “hard for men to imagine themselves being pregnant, and it’s hard to imagine ourselves being babies in God’s womb. However, these images convey the intimacy and utter dependency that can only be experienced between mother and child in her womb.”
We read in Luke 1:41 that “when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” Do we recognise the presence of Christ in those we encounter? Kurt Kondrich writes, “John was clearly thinking and understanding the magnitude of the situation when he recognized Jesus, and as an unborn child he could not control himself.” Baby John the Baptist jumping in the womb is the beginning of John’s witness to Jesus and it is a witness infused with joy. Does the Holy Spirit dwelling in us leap for joy when we approach the Eucharist?
On the Feast of Corpus Christi, our parish sang Michael W Smith’s ‘Breathe’ and as I pondered the line “Your holy presence living in me” it occurred to me that I am not “always desperate for you” or “lost without you.” I had previously thought that my lack of emotional longing for Jesus meant that I just wasn’t looking hard enough for God in my life. But maybe it’s because He constantly dwells within me, even when I don’t recognise His presence?
My heart leans towards the hope-filled prayer attributed to Saint Patrick of Ireland:
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of the Christ.
May your salvation, Lord, be ever with us.
How do you recognise the indwelling of Jesus within you?
Copyright 2018 Nathan Ahearne