How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!
So begins Psalm 84, a favorite of our community's founder, Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli. As the story goes, he prayed this psalm at the dedication of every church he helped build on the American frontier — and he built a lot of them. In his final days, he again found solace in reciting the familiar words.
As a result, we tend to read this psalm with a lens that either restricts God's dwelling place within the walls of a church or altogether assigns it to the next life. God always dwells a little bit beyond us, it seems to imply. After all, the psalmist continues: "My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the Lord." One rarely yearns and pines for something or someone already present.
Yet Advent is upon us, and as we anticipate the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us, I wonder, what do we really believe about where God dwells? Do we give more than lip service to the Christ child who searches for a home among us and if so, what does this mean for our world?
I live amid the rolling hills of Southwestern Wisconsin's Driftless region, and it's easy to believe that God would dwell here. The Creator's fingerprints are all over this place: a sunrise over the layered horizon, fog snaking through the Mississippi valley, coyotes howling in the night. How lovely is your dwelling place, indeed! Nestled within this diverse biological community is our little human community of sisters. Here, "home" is familiar and welcoming, a place to belong.
However, I am keenly aware that for too many of my brothers and sisters, home is a less comforting concept, even an unfamiliar one. It's no secret that we live in a time of social and ecological crisis that is largely of our own making. Climate change threatens the livelihood of the most vulnerable among us and one in every 10 children grows up in areas plagued by armed conflict. An unprecedented 65 million people worldwide are refugees, bereft of a place to call home. Meanwhile, the rich of the world threaten to build more walls. We're a wounded family living in a broken home.