The word Shekinah, according to the early rabbis, had a number of meanings: “to tent,” “to tabernacle,” “a divine visitation of the presence/dwelling of God,” “settling presence of God.” And much later, in John’s Gospel, we hear the words: “The Word became flesh and ‘pitched his tent’ among us.”
Today’s Scripture readings, with the Ark, the tent, the palace - made me think of “Shekinah,” the song. Brown sings of “Shekinah” as the indwelling of God and God’s temple – very much in tune with the rabbis.
In Sunday’s reading from second Samuel, David ruminates on the idea that while he lives in a palace of cedar, the Ark of God dwells in a tent. But God reminds David, through Nathan, that “I have never lived in a house…I have been traveling with a tent for shelter.” In other words, I don’t have to be confined to a building. “[Haven’t I] been with you wherever you went?”
This same reading from second Samuel reappears on the morning of December 24.
The Gospel for the fourth Sunday in Advent is Luke’s familiar narrative of the Annunciation of Jesus’ birth to Mary, in which the angel also announced that Elizabeth was six months pregnant. Scripture readings of days preceding Christmas invite us to engage in similar annunciations that proclaim good news to once barren wombs: to Samson’s mother; to Hannah, mother of Samuel; to Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptizer; and to Mary, whose womb tabernacled the Christ.
This is the third time the Annunciation narrative has been recounted: on the feast of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Sunday of the Fourth week of Advent.
What important message is there for our hearing this Gospel three times and David’s story twice in such a short span? Of our hearing the words womb, temple, tent, palace?
I think God is speaking these words to us:
“I don’t need a physical building to be present to you. I am within you. You are the temple that wanders as did the tent in the midst of the Israelites. I need you to share God wherever you are. ”
Monica Brown summed this up in her last line: “YOU, YOU are the temple.”
Pope Paul VI, summed it up with these words: “You are the eighth sacrament; the only one that some people will receive.”
Our call: “Be God’s presence! Be Shekinah! Be the temple!”
St. Gertrude Monastery