We continue our series of reflections by identifying and applying certain aspects of the theme of our most recent Clergy-Laity Congress, “Gather My People to My Home.” In our last reflection, we examined how the usage of the term “My” in the theme was a clear reference to God. This month, we consider what is meant by the term “Home” as it is used in the theme. The theme implies that we are speaking of “God’s Home.” Naturally, it is important for us to better understand God’s Home, since we engage in the task of gathering His people to His Home.
Properly understood, “God’s Home” is that place where all human beings experience the abundant, tender, and reassuring love of God firsthand. In our Orthodox Christian understanding, God’s Home is exemplified in the most superb manner by the Church. In this context, we speak of the Church as God’s Home in various ways: Church as structural edifice; Church as place of worship; Church as a community of believers; and, ultimately, Church as the dwelling place of God Almighty.
Each of these above enumerated ways of referencing the Church as “God’s Home” is rooted in the Holy Scriptures and in our Holy Tradition, and each can stand on their own as topics for deeper reflection. The notion of the Church as the dwelling place of God on earth deserves a heightened level of treatment in this brief reflection, for this way of referring to the Church is the most central to our direct application of our Congress’ theme “to gather God’s people to His Home.” We encounter the idea of God’s dwelling place as an earthly structural edifice in both the Old and New Testaments. In the first book of Kings, for example, we read how King Solomon built the Lord’s Temple according to exacting specifications, and how, in the form of a great cloud, the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord (I Kings 8:11). Beholding this with awe, King Solomon could only stand back to ponder the completion of his labor as he began his prayer of dedication to the Temple with a most solemn question, “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!” (I Kings 8:27). Generations later, this very important concept of God’s dwelling place as a structural edifice would find expression once again in the form of a question. This time, however, the question would be posed affirmatively by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself in the Temple, Who at a young age calmly reassured His Mother Mary and Joseph who had spent three days looking anxiously for Him throughout Jerusalem with the question, Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house? (Luke 2:49).
Each of these instances point to the very reality that our God, in all His glory and magnificence, has chosen to dwell among us throughout our human history in physical, visible edifices built by human hands. As Orthodox Christians, we believe that the Church today is the dwelling place of God; that the Church is, indeed, God’s Home on earth. This reality of the Church as the place where God dwells on earth carries powerful implications for our theme “Gathering God’s People to His Home,” for it allows us to conclude with certainty that this great task is attainable in every way. For God’s Home does not reside in a far-away distant land. God’s Home is not located in a realm outside this earth. Rather, God’s Home is capable of human identification and accessibility to all people on earth, regardless of their differences in age, generational attitudes, ethnic origin, language, gender, or political affiliation.
This brief reflection has tried to offer some clearer understanding of what we truly mean when we speak of “God’s Home” as the destination for the gathering of His people. While we rest in the assurance that God dwells among us on this earth in the Church, which is His Home; we also know that the majesty and glorious nature of God’s Home and His physical presence therein cannot be fully comprehended due to our human limitations. For example, in spite of all that has been said above, there are many other aspects of “God’s Home” which go beyond the strict notion of God’s Home as a structural edifice on earth. These other aspects of understanding what we mean when we speak of “God’s Home” will be considered in greater detail as the topic for our next reflection.
Archbishop of America