Prepare for Joy: Opening Wide the Gate

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O saving Victim, opening wide
The gate of Heaven to us below;
Our foes press hard on every side;
Your aid supply; Your strength bestow.
To your great name be endless praise,
Immortal Godhead, One in Three.
O grant us endless length of days,
In our true native land with thee.
Amen.
~translation of St. Thomas Acquinas’ Eucharist hymn “O Salutaris Hostia”
O salutaris Hostia,
Quae caeli pandis ostium:
Bella premunt hostilia,
Da robur, fer auxilium.
Uni trinoque Domino
Sit sempiterna gloria,
Qui vitam sine termino
Nobis donet in patria.
Amen.

 

We stand outside the gate, incapable of opening it ourselves, watching as He throws it open wide.  We choose to enter into the endless length of days, or we choose to remain outside, lingering in the familiar confines of what we know, though it destroys us.

There we shall rest and we shall see; we shall see and we shall love; we shall love and we shall praise. Behold what shall be in the end and shall not end.
~Augustine of Hippo

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Prepare for Joy: Unshaken

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I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish;
but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road.
A sum can be put right:
but only by going back til you find the error
and working it afresh from that point,
never by simply going on.

There are only two kinds of people in the end:
those who say to God,
“Thy will be done,”
and those to whom God says, in the end,
“Thy will be done.”
All that are in Hell, choose it.
Without that self-choice there could be no Hell.
No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it.
Those who seek find.
To those who knock
it is opened.

Everything becomes more and more itself.
Here is joy that cannot be shaken.
Our light can swallow up your darkness;
but your darkness cannot now infect our light.

~C.S. Lewis excerpts from A Great Divorce

 

So much value is placed on choice — our country thrives on it: the choice to abort or let live, the choice to vaccinate or let nature take its course, the choice to recycle or overwhelm landfills, the choice to marry whom you wish or not at all, the choice to believe or decide there is nothing worth believing in.

Each fork in the road forces a choice.  Which is the “right” road? How can we ever know?

Each time I’ve chosen a road that ends up darkening to the point of invisibility or covered in brambles, potholes or muddy mire, I must choose again: keep going deeper into the darkness, or turn around and choose again.  I backtrack, rethink, make mistakes, get lost, try again.   When I finally come to my senses and whisper to God, “Thy will be done,” only then does His light lead the way and swallow up my darkness.

My joy at seeking the light remains unshaken:  He is God and always has been, and I am not and never will be.

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Lenten Reflection–The Gradual Descent

photo by Josh Scholten

It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge one away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
C.S.Lewis in “The Screwtape Letters”

I recall a Twilight Zone episode long ago written by Earl Hamner, Jr. (who later went on to write “The Waltons”) about a back woods hunter and his coon dog who drowned pursuing a raccoon one fateful evening. The next day they found themselves lying alongside the pond, and set down a trail looking for the way back home. The trail took them to an entrance gate where the friendly gatekeeper welcomed the old hunter in but refused to allow the dog (who would have smelled the brimstone far beyond the gate). The hunter refused to enter without his dog so they continued down a long long path that seemed far less traveled.

Eventually they were found by a messenger who was looking for them, and who led them on up the road to paradise–coon hunting and square dances every night. They were told, “You see, a man, well, he’ll walk right into Hell with both eyes open. But even the Devil can’t fool a dog!”

As a child, I remember thinking how quickly I would have been lured in the wrong gate, choosing the easy way rather than seeking the longer way of the harder path that would lead to heaven.

Each step, every day, takes me closer. The path itself may not be an easy one, but it was never meant to be. I hope it won’t take a dog to help me know which way to go.