Opening our Holy Doors!

February 2, 2016 | Reflections From Sr Mary

So far, over the past month or so, we have marked and celebrated three new years.  We began with a new Liturgical Year on the first Sunday of Advent.  We then launched the new Jubilee Year of Mercy on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Thirdly, we ushered in the new calendar year of 2016 with our quiet New Year Vigil at midnight.  

Today, we begin a 4th round of newness as we embark on a new monastic year together.  So much newness with so many symbols attached to them.

Open DoorEach has its own theme and its own symbols but there is a common thread weaving through them all.  All of them in one way or another involved a door symbolic or otherwise….a door which closed and a door which opened.  I won’t go into these closings and openings in detail but think about it for a moment in relation to each of the new years I have mentioned….what closed and what opened for you?

And most particularly on this new day, the day when we begin the full living of our monastic life together again and the day of the Chapter of Appointments, what has closed and what is opening within you?

The dictionary meaning of the word “door” is an interesting one.  It suggests
entrance, exit, gateway, means of approach, admittance, access…

Whilst exit is mentioned, the focus seems to be on the opening, the access, the entrance or gate leading to something new.  When we think about a front door to a house or a monastery, the main feature is always on the outside providing a decoration or a word with an emphasis on opening and welcoming.  On our doors we have the word “Peace”.

In all these openings of a door into newness, the one of course which was highlighted by a real door was the Opening of the Holy Door in St Peter’s on December 8th. There was short clip of it on the News that night…it was a rather sombre formal occasion and I have to say that the one part which both amused and touched me most was that the door seemed stuck and it took quite some pushing and effort from Pope Francis to finally get it to move!

That might ring a bell with some of us about opening our own doors to a new monastic year this morning!  We might feel a bit hesitant about opening it…
is it a bit stuck, a bit unsure…a bit….???
But, whatever the feelings, it cannot be denied, that when you open a door, something physical does happen…
light comes in,
so does air,
so does space….
space inviting us into another room or a cloister or the outdoors…
or somewhere…different…somewhere new…
So, as we begin this new day and open this new door before us, Door with light
I invite you to step out of the old…the old light, the old air, the old space
and step into the new, the new light, the new air, the new space

with its invitations, challenges, possibilities, excitement, beauty…

You know, we can too often be what Sr Macrina calls, “tired lovers”, people full of our own moans and groans, we can get down and grumpy and negative about everyone and everything…and in a community, all of that can be catching, so much so that we often say the house or the air feels down, heavy, lethargic or on edge.  That’s all understandable at the end of a year.  That’s why we have holidays, time out, celebrations and rest…to re-charge our energies, re-create our spirits, to purify our “air” so to speak.

Today, I urge us all to close a door on allowing ourselves to keep getting wrapped up in negativity.  Holidays are over now and with many Australians, today we go back to work, the work of our full Liturgy of the Hours prayed for the Church and the whole world and the work of our portions and appointed tasks.

The time for being “tired lovers” is over now…closed.
The time for continued moans and groans is over now…closed.
The time for thinking only of ourselves and our likes and dislikes has to be over now…closed. It’s time for a new beginning, a new start.
It’s time now for openings…
open doors, open hearts, open souls to new light, new spaces, new possibilities,

new, clean, fresh air!

Take a breath now….a deep breath….and feel the air expanding your whole being.  A simple thing like that can help enormously…a deep breath….and another….and another.     Open ourselves to the possibilities that await us.

As the Song of Songs says:
“Come then, my love, my lovely one, come!
For see,  winter is past, the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth.
The time for singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.…”

Song of Songs 2:10-12

The mystic Kabir puts it this way,
“If you are in love, then why are you asleep,

Wake up, wake up, wake up this morning!”

And finally, another author, the poet David Whyte, ends a beautiful article on Rest this way:
we are ready for the world but not held hostage by it,
we care again for the right things and the right people in the right way.
In rest we re-establish the goals that make us more generous, more courageous,
more of an invitation, someone we want to remember,
and someone others would want to remember too.”

So, it’s time for right things, right people, right ways which include more generosity, more courage, more openness, more kindness, more optimism and so much more mercy.

Opening Holy DoorI want to end by referring again to the Year of Mercy and specifically the Holy Doors of Mercy whether they be in St Peter’s in Rome or the Cathedral in Wollongong or the Church door here at the Abbey or indeed the door to our cell or any special door which you choose to be a holy door for you this year….

These holy doors have the potential to touch us, change us, bring us closer to God and to others this year….if we allow them to…if we wake up enough to let them open, let them speak, let them breathe, let them live in us.

An open holy door can be for us a metaphor for our souls and our lives.

Pope Francis suggests that we choose and make holy a special door.  He says,
“May the gesture of directing our thought and prayer to God each time we cross the threshold of our door, signify a passage through the Holy Door, because the mercy of God is able to transform hearts, and is also able to transform bars into an experience of freedom.”
Today, let us choose and open our holy doors, doors to God, doors to one another, doors to deeper love and mercy, doors to newness, freshness, life itself!
“Come then, my love, my lovely one, come!
For see,  winter is past, the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth.
The time for singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.…”
Song of Songs 2:10-12

Ideas for Lectio

Take some time to reflect on how you are approaching this new monastic year.

Do you have expections , plans, hopes, dreams  for yourself?  For the community?

Using the Holy Door as a metaphor for yourself, what do you want to (or even have to) close in order to choose new life?  What do you want to open?

Taking a “deep breath” has been mentioned in assisting us to be aware of choosing new life and fresh “air”.  What else helps you to be a positive person who chooses to “care again for the right things and the right people in the right way”?

The Year of Mercy is already a month down.  Have you read any of the Pope’s statements or various commentaries about the year?  Have you thought about how the call to “be merciful” impacts on your life and living?

Have you got some ideas to share regarding how we can highlight this special year in our community?

Choose a door which can be a “holy door” for you this year, reminding you to “direct your thoughts and prayer towards God” as you enter?

You might like to decorate or honour your door in some way or make it special with a word, a picture or maybe a holy water font so that you make the sign of the cross each time you open the door?

It could be uplifting for us all if we could in some small way decorate the outside of our cell doors so that as we pass along the cloisters they remind us of God and the Holy Year of Mercy.