Mary: More Spacious Than The Heavens

I just recently moved cities, but at my last parish one of my favorite parts was looking up behind the altar and seeing this icon above encompass almost the entire east wall.

The icon is called “More Spacious than the Heavens”. Why? How can Mary be more spacious than the destination we are called to dwell in for eternity? I think that this icon has more to say about Advent, God, and his relationship to humankind than it does about Mary herself. 

“But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” – 1 Kings 8:27

We view God as transcendent, distant, and never-changing. God holds the whole creation in his hand and possesses divine sovereignty over our lives. And yet, the Incarnation of Jesus Christ awakened us to a deeper understanding of God.

In the Incarnation, God becomes what we are – human. He is fully human and fully divine. Remember that the pre-incarnate Second Person of the Trinity decided to take on all of his human nature from his mother. 

Why is Mary more spacious than the heavens? Because she contained the Uncontainable One. The sustainer of the whole cosmos is now sustained by his mother’s womb. Our God who provides nourishment to the whole creation must now feed on the nourishment of his mother’s breasts. Mary is more spacious than the heavens because she embodied that which the Heavens could not. 

The Nativity hymnography of the Christian East cuts through all the typical sentimentality we usually hear:

“I behold a strange, most glorious mystery! Heaven-the cave! The cherubic throne-the Virgin! The manger-the place where Christ lay, the uncontainable God, Whom we magnify in song!”

Mary is the prefigurement of what we all are when we approach the Holy Table. When we feed on Christ’s body and blood, our own bodies become divine dwelling places. We partake in a God who is not elusive or distant; we partake in a God who intimately wants to reside in and through us. 

May the Incarnation illumine our understanding of God and His work in creation. Amen. 

A Table for One Cannot Exist

Thanksgiving induces stress for many people. For some, it’s a stress of logistical nature. Our desire to invite people into our homes evolves into a desire to be a perfect cook, a perfect host, and a perfect planner. For others, the stress of familial feuds can be too much, especially in our polarized political climate.

Thanksgiving, or rather the weeks leading up to the entire holiday season, personally create stress of a much different sort. As someone estranged to his biological family, I find myself worrying, “Is there a family I can enjoy fellowship with this year? Or will I spend this season alone?” Many singles, particularly LGBT Christians, find themselves asking this question for the rest of their lives. It induces feelings of isolation, despair, trauma, and loss.

The problem is, it isn’t supposed to be this way. “It is not good that man should be alone.” (Gen 2: 18). A desire for family – for communion – is inherently human. Our isolation is a result of a fallen world; a world of sin. Every sin results in death.

I created this blog with the hope that the broader church can listen and make space at the Table for LGBT Christians. To truly be one in Christ, means you see the entire person. You can’t ignore my familial history. You can’t ignore my sexuality. You certainly can’t ignore the immense challenge celibacy brings me in regard to intimacy and communion with other human beings. Making space at the table means being aware of the baggage I bring, while simultaneously“bearing [my] burdens”. (Gal 6:2)

This year, I was graciously invited into the home of a loving family that I’m becoming more acquainted with over time. To see families desire a breaking of bread with a single person reaffirms the notion that God’s grace is embodied and communal. I cherish  Christians who embrace me as a single person, rather than treating me as an object of sympathy. I pray that God continues to grow these types of relationships in my life.

If one understands the transcendent reality of the eucharistic (giving thanks) table each Sunday, they will understand the transcendent reality of their Thanksgiving table.

“Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.” (1 Cor 10:17)

Because in the Kingdom of God, a table for one cannot exist.