Tag Archives: door

4 February, A week with Rabindranath Tagore: VII.

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If you shut your door to all errors truth will be shut out.

Stray Birds CXXX

Which is surely one reason Pope Francis called for a Year of Mercy. Any door can be a holy door, if we step through it to find truth or to share it.

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14 November: Another Polish Door of Mercy

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As we entered this Door of Mercy at Krakow Cathedral, we found ourselves processing, or at least moving at a processional speed, pressed in on every side. It seemed that half of Poland was there, visiting the national shrine, site of royal coronations, resting place of saints, Poland’s Westminster Abbey.

Is a royal shrine the place to look for mercy? This Church is a baroque fantasia: silver, gold, marble wherever you turn. Where could I sit quietly to pray, as I can do in Canterbury Cathedral crypt?

Later I noticed this inscription along the external wall below a golden dome:

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NON-NOBIS-DOMINE-NON-NOBIS-SED-NOMINI-Tuo.

This comes from Psalm 115:9:

 At the presence of the Lord the earth was moved, at the presence of the God of Jacob:

Who turned the rock into pools of water, and the stony hill into fountains of waters.

Not to us, O Lord, not to us; but to thy name give glory.

 For thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake: lest the gentiles should say: Where is their God?

But our God is in heaven: he hath done all things whatsoever he would.

The idols of the gentiles are silver and gold, the works of the hands of men.

They have mouths and speak not: they have eyes and see not.

They have ears and hear not: they have noses and smell not.

They have hands and feel not: they have feet and walk not: neither shall they cry out through their throat.

Let them that make them become like unto them: and all such as trust in them.

Puzzle this out: Glorify your name for the sake of your mercy – or for Israel to earn the respect of the gentiles? Would we not be better channels of mercy if we were humbler than that?

mercy.carving. (328x640)And Yet.

Saint Jadwiga, a young Queen of Poland buried within  this church, was called the spiritual mother of the poor, weak and ill: where she has passed is therefore a Door of Mercy. We can learn mercy from her, getting alongside the poor, weak and ill.  And that is half an answer to the conundrum; do what we can, where we are. And ‘non nobis, Domine’ indeed!

MMB.

 

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13 November: In and Out of the Door of Mercy.

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Although NAIB has an Anglican door of mercy just outside her front door, I never expected to pass through one myself, but we entered two of them in Poland, the first at the Sanctuary of the Holy Family in Zakopane. A beautifully carved wooden frame had been constructed around the West door of the Church: you’ll have noticed that we have been using their version of the Mercy Icon when our reflections touch on the Year of Mercy. Look carefully and you’ll see it on the left of the frame.

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Where should a Door of Mercy lead? This one opened onto a crucifix just inside the door, a manned confessional, then a beautiful interior, with the birds of the air upon the ceiling and scenes from local history in murals above the nave. Here, next to the altar, was the font with John baptising his cousin and Our Lord. Here was the Blessed Sacrament exposed, half a dozen faithful keeping watch.

 How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts. Psalm 84:3

mercy.carving. (328x640)But where should a Door of Mercy lead? It leads us – not just the Old Testament High Priest – into the sanctuary, but also out of it.

We have [hope] as an anchor of the soul, sure and firm, and which entereth in even within the veil; where the forerunner Jesus is entered for us, made a high priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech. (Hebrews 6:19-20).

We have hope and entering a door of mercy is a sign of that hope but as we exit the door we are called to be instruments of mercy, not passive recipients of it. We are called to forgive seventy times seven (some people I know can almost be that annoying!) and to have compassion on our fellow servants; to feel for them and to build them up. (Matthew 18). So now, as the Year of Mercy ends, go out through your local door of mercy and get at it! (Your door of mercy is the one you have the key to and where your letters and visitors arrive; your front door.)

MMB

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Opening Doors of Mercy

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It was a joy to visit old friends in Berlin, Oskar and Kristina. Oskar has lived through many changes since his birth in 1944: bombs, occupation, partition; flights to the West and shootings by border guards; the building of the Wall and its demolition. Visiting his family in the East was restricted and only via certain checkpoints. Doors of not much mercy.

The S-bahn and U-bahn (Surface and Underground metros) no longer trundle through ghost stations where lines cut through the East. The united city is growing: buildings like the Reichstag being restored, bright new ones rising around the centre. Oskar and Kristina’s son’s new flat is almost finished; we saw the block from the river tour, itself inconceivable before the Wall was toppled. Oskar showed us a stretch preserved for future generations.

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Berlin felt like a city at peace with itself.

Immediately before the wall came down the checkpoints, the doorways between the two sides of the city, were thrown open; the wall became pointless.

What can happen if we open the doors of mercy, the doors of our hearts?

Berlin had to grow up and learn from the past. The Nazi regime tried to rewrite the past, excluding the contributions made by Jewish people and those whose thoughts did not tally with National Socialist policies. Hence the burning of books, a crime against everyone.

This monument is a window into a basement of haunted empty shelves, where those lost books belong.

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empty shelves

In Margate’s Turner Contemporary the bookshelves are full. The British Library by Yinka Shonibare also challenges our memory of who we are. His books are bound in bright West African cloth, and bear the names of ‘foreigners’ who have contributed to Britain as we know it, from Brontë to Disraeli, from Ben Kingsley to Margate’s own Tracey Emin. A sense of peace descended on the party I visited with. All these people, and we ourselves, belong together. Follow this link:

British Library

MMB.

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26 June: Year of Mercy Season: Doors of Mercy I

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In Jubilee Years, declared by Popes, Holy Doors (doors of major Roman Basilicas normally sealed with mortar) become Doors of Mercy.  The doors are opened, allowing pilgrims seeking mercylogothe mercy of God to enter through these sacred doors.  This year, by the direction of the Holy Father, other church doors throughout the world, have been designated as Holy Doors to accommodate the faithful who cannot travel to Rome with a means of receiving the mercy of God through this Jubilee tradition.

Doors can be seen as having dual purposes; they can be a means to control or restrict entrance, or a portal of hospitality.

In an ecstatic vision, Saint Catherine of Siena heard God speak of such a restriction when he revealed to her that in the garden, the sin of man “had closed Heaven and bolted the doors of mercy, [which caused] the soul of man [to] produce thorns and brambles…”

Fortunately they would not remain closed.  Through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection they were opened again.  Indeed, all the synoptic gospels note that at the Baptism of our Lord, heaven was once again opened.

In the Jubilee, the Church responds to Psalm 118 by opening the “gate [or door] of the Lord; [so that] the righteous may enter”.  The Holy Doors, now Doors of Mercy, are symbols of Christ, who in John 10:7, proclaims, “I am the door”.

 Jesus, the real Holy Door, promises us (Matthew 7:7), “…knock and it will be opened to you.”

DW.

Doug writes: I thought you might enjoy this photo I took at the Mission San Luis Rey historic church …designated by our Bishop as one of six Holy Door churches.
Regards,
Doug

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18 June, Year of Mercy: Embarking on Mercy

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mercylogoMercy is not something that can be enclosed in a static fashion in a building. No one can draw a line around grace or mercy, and say, “here it is, we have caught it”. God is always more immense than our buildings. We may celebrate the community which loves to share mercy in a specific place. But the presence we encounter must help us to progress further on a journey, to set out on new routes, to embark on a voyage. In this sense, a harbour or a pier could be as true a symbol of the newness of mercy as a doorway.

We cannot pin down the symbolism of the Bristol Channel, seen here, by deciding that this journey is just beginning or just ending. It can be both and either. The transformative character of our life of faith and grace is likewise full of endings and beginnings.

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Nothing is quite as thoroughly an ending as a retirement home, we might suggest.

Yet for people of genuine faith, that will be a place for friends visit us, gladly hearing words of enlightenment and courage from us.

What our visitors may learn, from conversation with us, therefore, is how we view the final days of our earthly life with great hope, the tremendous beginning of eternal life and joy.

St. John’s hospital in Canterbury, being an almshouse, surely has this potential too….

I often nowadays see this doorway closed off, with entry prevented. But this open image suggests far more.

CD.

Mercy is not something that can be enclosed in a static fashion in a building. No one can draw a line around grace or mercy, and say, “here it is, we have caught it”. God is always more immense than our buildings. We may celebrate the community which loves to share mercy in a specific place. But the presence we encounter must help us to progress further on a journey, to set out on new routes, to embark on a voyage. In this sense, a harbour or a pier could be as true a symbol of the newness of mercy as a doorway.

We cannot pin down the symbolism of the Bristol Channel, seen here, by deciding that this journey is just beginning or just ending. It can be both and either. The transformative character of our life of faith and grace is likewise full of endings and beginnings.

Nothing is quite as thoroughly an ending as a retirement home, we might suggest.

Yet for people of genuine faith, that will be a place for friends visit us, gladly hearing words of enlightenment and courage from us.

What our visitors may learn, from conversation with us, therefore, is how we view the final days of our earthly life with great hope, the tremendous beginning of eternal life and joy.

St. John’s hospital in Canterbury, being an almshouse, surely has this potential too….

I often nowadays see this doorway closed off, with entry prevented. But this open image suggests far more.

CD.

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17 June, Year of Mercy: Release from Madness

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mercylogoOur lives are short. When they end, does a door simply close, or do our gifts, lovingly shared, also leave a trace of our passing? The name ’Swanston’ above this tutor’s office in Eliot College, of the University of Kent, quietly commemorates Hamish Swanston, a previous staff lecturer. He was the first Roman Catholic professor in an English university since the Reformation.

A number of Franciscan and Redemptorist students from the Franciscan Study Centre, who took degrees at the university, also took his classes. He was a splendidly energising lecturer, always keen to celebrate life’s varied potential. His approach to theology embraced poetry, music, drama and all sorts of story-telling.

Acts of the Apostles played a key role in his understanding of the mission-minded character of Christianity’s liturgical communities. Those willing to be launched on a transforming path in their lives can take a great deal of encouragement from his books, even long after his death in 2013. Titles such as The Kings and the Covenant, A Language for Madness and Handel provide a sparkling adventure for believers, inner journeys whereby they may learn to achieve far more creative uses of the gifts of the Spirit of God in their relationships.

 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; He who was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the spirit, Seen of angels, Preached among the nations, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory. 1 Timothy 3:16

He saw the early creeds, which were hymns such as 1 Timothy 3:16, as intended to stir the heart, to make people plunge into God. Mercy could then reach them in their many shocks and terrors. A community of friendships could lead them back from their insanity.

 

CD.

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16 June, Year of Mercy: Entering into God’s Grace

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mercylogoThe friars’ Church of St. Francis in Stratford has existed as a worshipping community since the middle of the nineteenth century. The kindness and atmosphere of welcome that can be met here is the most convincing sign that the word ‘church’ means not a building but a gathering of sincere believers. The people are what make the Body of Christ a focus for God’s love.

Repairing any place of prayer that has persevered over decades is a familiar task. The inviting entrance was turned into a temporary building site. It became a reminder that our liturgies likewise have to repair the hearts, minds and souls of those who travel to be there every week. The photo conveys a poignant symbolism of the obstructions we place in the path of God’s merciful, life-transforming grace.

Celebrating baptisms, we tell the assembled families, in their fine clothing, that the building itself symbolises an entrance way into the community of faith. What we bring will not be simply our best dresses and suits but the generous gifts which we have from God, which we may have neglected to use caringly. Those who rarely visit a church need helpful words, to learn to ask what makes community – and Christian community in particular – something to treasure. Why is it important to join a community, build it up, defend its best features and even, in some places, to die for it? The reality is, we cannot make much progress in loving on our own.

 

CD.

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15 June, Year of Mercy: Schoolyard Memories

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mercylogoThe entrance to my primary school was a gateway in a wall built from the flintstones of Reading’s ruined Abbey. Running across the playground could be painful, if you were not careful and collided full tilt with an array of sharp-edged fossil chunks. It had a Dickensian feel, not least because on the far side the grounds abutted on the wall of Reading Gaol, where Oscar Wilde had been confined. Some of the doorways and walls of the Abbey are still standing, so there was a strong sense of being close to the distant past.

My mother, like other mothers, would leave me at the gate to venture into the turbulent uncertainties of other families’ offspring and the sense of multiple undecided destinies. She also took me and my sisters one evening to a special event held in the ruins to the right of the school in this photo. A live, open-air performance of Shakespeare’s Macbeth was given amongst these craggy walls. Special lighting behind each hollow, empty window space captured the shadowy presence of the three witches up above our seats. Fierce, battling Scots rode in on real horses. Fresh breezes tugged at our hair and threatened to prevent us hearing the actors’ words.

So this was a place on the threshold of imaginary, dangerous turmoil. Here also I was commended for spotting the alert voice of the New Testament evangelist, using the words, ‘At that time, Jesus went…’ Yes, Jesus sought mercy amongst the pressures of social upheaval.

CD.

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13 June, year of Mercy: Mercy in Ruins

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mercylogoWhen we travel, we hope that when the heat gets too much or we feel hungry and thirsty, God’s Providence may bring us a friendly face and a chance of hospitality. But tourism takes us through areas of ruined classical cities, where once was a lively population and hospitality was likely. However, that population died long ago, and all they have left is the skeleton of a dwelling. This picture reminds me of a similar doorway, to a house which no longer existed, when I visited Athens in my late teens, when a military junta ruled Greece.

I had taken a bus from the airport into Athens in the early hours. By five in the morning it was light, and beginning to be warmer. I had planned to visit the Parthenon before the crowds arrived, so I sat down on the step in front of a doorway like this to gather my wits for the climb up the hill. But there was an old wooden door in the doorway, and this suddenly opened behind me. A fellow traveller, an American I think, emerged, wished me good morning and went on his way. He had slept the night behind a door and a door frame.

It was a comical, theatrical moment, as if an ancient Greek house servant had come back to life to greet me.  Like Silas and St. Paul, I was wondering what signs or messengers might show up in my dreams, to send me off on a more purposeful path.

 

CD.

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