A Moving Icon of Eternity: The New Jerusalem as Trinitarian Indwelling

To begin with, the human heart is inhospitable to love.

So God the lover must become God the warrior, besieging fiefdom after fiefdom in our little hearts to create a dwelling place for Himself.

It is the work of a lifetime, but God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are very patient. The Trinity carries out, in each human heart, a strategic plan specifically fashioned to overcome our idiosyncratic resistances to love and to cultivate our personal gifts for serving love. 

The Trinity has been at this all your life, all my life. Through tactical reverses caused by ourselves or by others. Through our wild cursing at the supposed cruelty of God. Through addictive spirals of abject self-destruction. 

All the Father wants, all Jesus wants, all the Holy Spirit wants, is to share the whole of life with us, consortium totius vitae. 

We’ve just finished up the Book of Revelation in the breviary, and almost in the lectionary (though we will hear the conclusion next Sunday). At Mass today, we saw the New Jerusalem descending from heaven to earth. The point was never to remove us from the world into some airy realm of cumulus clouds. The point has always been the apocalypse of divine glory as shining through this material world. 

That’s why the New Jerusalem is “like jasper, clear as crystal.” We are children of this Mother, this New City, this Bride; so, what Gerard Manley Hopkins says of Our Lady applies to us, “who/This one work has to do—/Let all God’s glory through…”

Our vocation is to become instruments of the divine iconography. This requires purification, for light in the eye comes from love in the heart. Love gives vision. The Father wants us to see all the beauty. When love comes to our hearts, it must come as conqueror (omnia vincit amor), because what’s resident in us are many refusals to see and to love.

Our mission is to see the divine glory that’s everywhere—first, by being that glory.

When the eye that sees the world is full of light, the world streams with light. And we are to amplify that streaming. To riff off Plato’s Timaeus: the human commission is to make of history “a moving icon of eternity.” That’s what the image of God in the world, male and female, was always meant to do (Genesis 1:27-28).

And here we are at the end of Scripture, the conclusion of that arc from “the beginning,” and there's a final marriage, now between God and all humanity, the offspring of the first marriage. All God wants is to live with us. That's all the Father has ever wanted. It is overwhelming to take seriously. 

“And I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will tabernacle with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them'” (Revelation 21:2-3). 

Tabernacle, tent, dwelling. It rings a little bell... There is a beginning older than the beginning that was the original human union of Adam and Eve. An archaic-eternal beginning, an eternal union, drives all of this, drives this future of love: “In the beginning was the Word [Logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). 

But this eternal Trinitarian dynamism takes a detour: “And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we gazed on His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). 

At the end of Scripture, we see the consummation of the whole story, which begins in the eternity of God, advances through the Incarnation and Paschal Mystery, and ends with eternity indwelling time. It’s stranger than any possible fiction.

Today’s Gospel reading tells us how the New City comes: “If anyone loves Me, My word (logon) he will keep, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and We will make a dwelling place (monen) with him. …the word (ho logos) which you hear is not mine, but is of the Father Who sent Me” (John 14:23).

As I indicate in “Glory Built in the Dark,” when Jesus speaks, just a few verses earlier, of there being many dwelling places (monai) in the Father’s household, and He is going to receive us there, that is not contradicted by what we have here, with the Father and the Son (the Holy Spirit as Their mutual Love is how there's a first-person plural) intending to dwell in us.

To be drawn into the embrace of the Trinity is correlative to the Trinity’s dwelling in our hearts.

That has to do with Trinitarian logic. 

To logic must be added history, and this is what the Book of Revelation provides. Is our home to be in heaven or on earth? The answer: both. Heaven is to come down to earth.

When we love Jesus, when we cherish Him as the Word of Love whispered by the Father just to us, just to each of us; when we respond to that Word by allowing Love to destroy each of our defensive positions in turn; when we surrender in faith to the loving scalpel of the good Father: we become light, and the world becomes light, and those around us begin to hear a whisper and see a glimmer, and the Kingdom comes on.


[A note on the use of logos by Jesus in these verses. In my post “Some Trinitarian Reflections on Judgment and Hell,” I give an account that makes sense of what might appear to be Saint John’s not having redacted his Gospel very well. His prologue is emphatic in identifying Jesus as the eternal Logos, and yet he reports words of Jesus that seem to undercut that. In fact, these words emphasize the reality of the Trinitarian relations.

Jesus simply IS the Logos of the Father. He is not in any way “for Himself.” His words, the Word He is: these are not private property. He simply comes from the Father and returns to the Father. That is all there is to His personality.

That is, the Trinitarian distinction of divine Persons is not notional, but real, and the missions of the Son and the Spirit in the economy of salvation simply translate in time what is so in eternity. 

We see this Trinitarian realism reinforced with the following words on the sending of the Holy Spirit: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, which the Father will send in My Name, He will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). 

Everything depends on the concrete contours of the eternal Trinitarian life. The future depends on that eternal love.]