“Lord, go up to the place of your rest, you and the ark of your holiness.” The Psalm response for the Solemnity of the Assumption, which we just celebrated, touches on the rich spiritual theme of rest and dwelling.
This theme permeates both the Old and New Testaments. Later in that same Psalm 132, we read, “Yes, the Lord has chosen Zion, / desired it for a dwelling: / ‘This is my resting place forever; / here I will dwell, for I desire it.’” Throughout the Old Testament, Zion or Jerusalem is described as the place of the Lord’s dwelling or resting. But God is not the only one who rests in a place and dwells in it; He promises Moses that He will go before His people into their land and there give them rest (Ex 33:14).
The New Testament, likewise, describes both God’s rest and ours. Christ, although He had nowhere to lay His head (Lk 9:58), nevertheless found Himself at home with Martha, Mary and Lazarus (Lk 10). They were His friends, and we can imagine the delight with which He found reprieve at their dwelling from the needy crowds, the scornful leaders of His people, and even His own uncomprehending disciples.
We, too, are given rest and find a home — in God. “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28). St. John’s Gospel expresses a reciprocity: “Whoever loves me,” Jesus assures us, “will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him” (Jn 14:23). “Remain in me, as I remain in you” (Jn 15:4).
And the kingdom of heaven is a like a mustard seed that becomes the largest of trees, “and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches” (Matt 13:32). Why does Our Lord add this piece about the birds of the sky dwelling in the mustard tree’s branches? Dwelling somewhere means that one is at rest there. A home is a place where we can be ourselves, where we are safe, where those we love also dwell.
This kind of a place is exactly what God promises us, permanently, when He promises us heaven — and Mary, assumed there, is the pledge that we, too, will find this rest. She, the first fruits of Christ’s redemptive death and resurrection, goes before us. She was the greatest Dwelling of God, the true Ark: as a tiny unborn infant, He found a home under her heart — physically, but also in the spiritual order, because she was free of sin. He was completely at home in her, because she was completely radiant and pure.
Grace works in us, too, to make each of us mustard seeds grow into a dwelling — for others to feel at home but also for God to take His rest. God desires us, as He chose and desired Israel. He wishes to dwell in us, knocks at our door. Will we give Him a place in the inn of our hearts?
Sr. Maria Veritas Marks is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.