“Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” (John 14:23-29)
This is a favorite scripture passage of mine, coming as it does toward the very end of the gospel, and part of Jesus’s final discourse at the Last Supper. He reminds us that if love one another and keep his word, he and his Father will make a home (“shekhinah” in Hebrew) for us.
And in this dwelling place, we are most especially precious in God’s sight, “radiance like the precious stones, like a jasper, clear as crystal” that of the new Jerusalem, in the second reading from the Book of Revelation.
By my calculation, I first came to this monastery, some thirty years ago. It was in the summer when your chaplain, Father Juan, was about to return to his beloved Majorca, for vacation, and my good friend Msgr. Robert Wister from Seton Hall University had just arrived to substitute for him for a few beautiful weeks.
I recall walking into the priest quarters – with that magnificent vista of Monastery beach, and in the distance Carmel, and that azure blue ocean, a light shade of blue that falls somewhere between blue and aqua green, or cyan.
At an instant, I told Father Juan that if President Reagan could have a Western White House and ranch in the Saint Inez Mountains of Santa Barbara, we should recommend to Pope John Paul that he make this land his American Vatican.
There is no more exceptional plot of Church land, really anywhere. The spirit of God rests here in its physical beauty and in the graceful outpouring of the soul in community life and prayer. Writer Anne Lamott says that the three essential prayers are “Help, Thanks and Wow.” It’s here we can ask for God’s assistance, express our gratitude for graces received, and give a shout of “wow” to the seascape and the natural surroundings.
So this is a comfortable dwelling place or home where the spirit of God dwells in us and in the sacraments that are celebrated day by day. Here, we are at home with God.
Yet growing up as we do, we carry within us the memories of our family home, our parents, our extended family at a July 4th barbecue, or perhaps friends next door who were young people then, now life long friends. Some memories, because of death, are frozen but live in vivid recollections and fond stories.
Yesterday, I picked up a copy of the Carmel Pine Cone, our local newspaper, and as we know, most of the second section is devoted to real estate advertisements for some of the most expensive real estate in this country. One home on the cover of the second section of the paper was totally white, a blank canvas, almost antiseptic white. It was an empty shell with carefully placed furniture, but no signs of the people, or life, nor a family canine who may provide a clue of the kind of life that was lived there.
I’ve been told that interior decorators carefully stage a house sale, and among the recommendations for marketing purposes is the removal of personal effects. There are no family photos, or high school or college diplomas, no unique wedding gifts, nor religious symbols of any kind, even a statue of Saint Francis feeding the birds in the garden doesn’t make the cut. Such material objects may influence the potential value of the property.
How strange indeed, when the genuine precious stones — the sacramental grace of a family and its home, that dwelling place resides not in the physical building but lies in the sacrament that we are to one another in Christ.
To my mind, those family photographs at Christmas, the memories of high school and college, those keepsakes including our prayer books, bibles, and patron saints give evidence to identity in the person of Christ. Whose life we lead on and whose journey brought us and sustains us where ever we find ourselves.
Indeed, in this New Jerusalem, “we gleam with the splendor of God. Its radiance is like that of a precious stone, like a jasper, clear as crystal. …Here, in this dwelling place, there is no temple for its temple is the Lord Almighty and the Lamb.”
Carmelite Monastery of Our Lady and Saint Therese, Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA.
“But how shall we educate men to goodness, to a sense of one another, to a love of the truth? And more urgently, how shall we do this in a bad time.” Daniel Berrigan, S.J., Time, 1/25/71