Throughout the course of any given day in our lives, we find ourselves opening doors and following steps that will facilitate our movement through the labyrinth. For example, think of how you prepare for something as routine as going to the store. Even if you do not make a list, you take a moment to consider why you’re entering the store and take steps to make sure you have cash or a credit card. From the moment you exit your domicile or office to the moment you walk through the door of the store, how many doors have you opened? How many thresholds have you crossed?
When you cross the threshold into a holy place, like our church, you have opened doors, crossed boundaries, exited and entered a variety of doors. Ponder this for a moment. There is this experiential, bodily transition from one portal to another. We would do well to be mindful. Be awake. Alert. ”I am walking across the threshold into…”
Peace. Translucency (blue stained glass, milky light powdered over walnut pews, symbol-adorned walls, table, glass). ” In the midst of others, I am positioning myself to…”
Come before the Holy, the Unutterable, the Fountain of Light. What you have done is this: you have opened the gate called Worship. This is a series of actions from prayer to song to proclamation that weave you into a sacred tapestry of space and time and all in a singular effort to place one’s life before the Giver of Life.
There are secondary reasons we gather in the church and those reasons are fine as long as they remain secondary to the one great thing you do that day: worship. So we show up to socialize and network and accomplish some other secondary tasks. What we want to do is show up in that holy place at least as mindful as we are when we enter the grocery store with our lists, our money and coupons. Indeed, we enter sacred time with the small change of our lives seeking a treasure that far exceeds our expectations.
This is one reason I value so much the first gate we open on Sunday. Have you noticed in your church bulletin that our order of service is a series of gates? And the first gate is “prayer.” We begin our service without noise, practically in quiet and in prayerful repose. Think of that and how that might compare to your experiences in other churches. We begin in quiet, contemplative prayer. I don’t know how you experience that, but here is what I experience: the illusions of the world begin to crash like slags of ice into the sea; the noise of the world melts, dissipates and dissolves into quiet; I can feel my chest rise and fall to breath; eyes closed, I trade darkness for light. And I pray, Christe eleison, Christ have mercy.
Three things you might consider doing prior to entering a holy place: be mindful of your thresholds; find the gate that opens into your heart, mind and soul; open that gate as you open the gate of worship.
I’ll end by quoting Augustine from Book XII of his Confessions:
O let the Light, the Truth, the Light of my heart, not mine own darkness, speak unto me. I fell off into that, and became darkened; but even thence, even thence I loved Thee. I went astray, and remembered Thee. I heard Thy voice behind me, calling to me to return, and scarcely heard it, through the tumultuousness of the enemies of peace. And now, behold, I return in distress and panting after Thy fountain.
There is a gate. Open it. There is a fountain of light by which we see light. See you Sunday.