God is in his holy habitation; it is he that maketh brethren to be of one mind in an house: he will give the dominion and preeminence unto his people.
These words from the Introit come from Psalm 67. But what is the Lord’s “holy habitation” and what does it mean for those who dwell in it “to be of one mind”? First, the holy habitation is the household of God. Under the old covenant the Israelites were gathered together into the people of God. Through the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross the new covenant extends the mercy of God to all who choose to share in his life. Thus through the gift of baptism all are invited into a personal-passionate relationship with the Lord. Those who respond are joined to the very person of Christ; caught up in the life of the fullness of God, and thus called “no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir” (Gal. 4:7).
That household of faith, that holy habitation, is the gathering of the holy people of God; the ekklesia, the Church. Our participation in the life of God, and our status as heirs of the dominion and preeminence of God, that is as those who hope to receive the fruits of the sacrifice of God and so inherit the kingdom, comes about and continues for us in and through our union with the Church.
Secondly, then, how does this union come about? What does it means to be of one mind in the household of faith? Agreement or union with God and thus with the Church is manifested in three ways: in faith, in love, and in discipline. The Church is the guarantor and source of this communion, because she is the spouse of Christ. And so it is for us to conform ourselves to her, and not vice versa. We must be united in faith, that is in the common belief of the Church; in love, that is in sacramental union with the Church and with each other by our worthy reception of the sacraments, and thus the avoidance of sin; in discipline, that is in faithful obedience to the legitimate authority of the Church, and especially the bishops. Each of these requires our cooperation. Yes, our baptism brings about an objective state of union with God and the Church, but the maintenance of that life of faith is in our hands inasmuch as God, who loves us with a perfect love, gives us the perfect freedom to embrace and also to reject the life he offers.
It is perhaps worth reflecting in our prayer and particularly in our daily examination of conscience how we have strengthened or weakened this communion by what we have done and what we have failed to do. To assess the ways in which we have been advocates for the household of faith, or its detractors. Have I doubted or questioned an object of faith? Have I neglected to deepen my knowledge of the faith, avoiding spiritual or theological reading? Have I left going to Confession or made excuses for a lukewarm spiritual life? Have I been slow to return to the sacraments or lacklustre in my desire for them? Have I always spoken of the Church and her pastors with filial obedience and respect? Have I prayed for those in authority in the Church, and prayed most especially for a deeper union of faith with them?
These are not easy questions to face, but look at the prize for our fidelity! God is in his holy habitation, says the Psalmist, it is he that maketh brethren to be of one mind in an house: he will give the dominion and preeminence unto his people. In the words of the Collect, may the Lord who in the abundance of his loving-kindness gives beyond the desires of those who pray, pour down upon us his mercy that we may be forgiven those things which we are afraid to confront, and be granted the blessings that we do not dare presume to ask. Amen.