“We live in a numble abode” said Uriah Heep in David Copperfield. That was in 1850. I don’t think anyone now refers to his or her house as ‘an abode’ – ‘umble’ or otherwise. But the word itself is interesting. It is related to ‘abide’. You abide in an abode.
The word ‘abide’ is used repeatedly in that section of John’s gospel we have been reading in recent weeks (10 times in verses 1-10 of chapter 15). It is variously translated as ‘live’ and ‘remain’ and ‘make your home’. It is a beautiful word. It is a word much loved by Meister Eckhart, the 14th-century German mystic. He wrote,
“It is not right to love God for His heaven’s sake nor for the sake of anything at all, but we should love Him for the goodness that He is in Himself. For whoever loves him for anything else does not abide in Him, but abides in the thing he is loving Him for. If, therefore you want to abide in Him, you must love Him for nothing but Himself.”
That’s how a person behaves at home: we love people at home for their own sake, not because they are clever or good-looking, and not for what we can get from them. St. Teresa of Avila said that she would like to close down both heaven and hell so that people would do good for its own sake, and not out o greed or fear. Then we could love God for God’s own sake. Now that would really be ‘abiding in God.’
God in Us
Equally, God abides in us; he lives ‘in a numble abode.’ This Sunday’s gospel says:
Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them (John 14:23f)
He also promised to send us the Holy Spirit. This mans that the entire Trinity lives within us; and we in the Trinity.
So, where on earth did we get the idea that God was distant from us? I suppose it was because many of the people who spoke to us about God in our early years neglected to mention that ‘God is love’; perhaps many of them had experienced little of this love themselves.
Recently I found a copy of the old Penny Catechism that was knocked into me in my childhood, and I saw that in the first chapter (which was bout God) the word ‘love’ did not occur at all. God was described as creator, ruler, punisher of evil, rewarder of good; but nowhere did it say that God actually loves us.
Love brings near; fear separates, it makes you want to run away. How terrible that we run away like frightened animals from our deepest source of life!. How terrible that we feel like strangers and exiles in our own home, our abode.
The Beloved Returns
The ‘Second Coming of Christ’ has been described in works of art with terrifying imagery; but we know that it is the return of someone who loves us loves us much more, even, than we love ourselves.
‘Abide’ is a word you might use to describe what you are doing in contemplation: you are abiding, you are making your home in Christ, you are within his mind. You are in God and God is in you. You are in your true home.
Courtesy Rollebon Press