Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Door of Humility

I've never been to the Holy Land, but I've heard that, in Bethlehem, there is a very small opening of stone that serves as the ancient portal to the Church of the Nativity.  For centuries, that doorway has been called the "Door of Humility," for in order to enter you must, by mere necessity, bow down very low.

It may not be as ancient, and certainly not as prestigious, but in order to make your way to the place where I work and dwell, you must also enter what I've come to call my own "Door of Humility."

As you stand in front of the entrance to Newman's University Church on St. Stephen's Green (and be advised if you wish to visit – you can walk by this facade and not even know you've passed the church), as I said, as you stand there you can see, to the left, a set of heavy wooden double doors, painted black.  These doors can be opened with great labour, and a long tunnel greets you, a tunnel that goes underneath the building to the east: Newman House, maintained by University College Dublin, the place where Blessed John Henry taught.  It's also the place, by the way, where the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins passed away.

But back to the doors and the tunnel: the double doors were seldom opened, usually when the priests and their guests came in by horseback.  There are still metal rings in the inner courtyard walls that point to this practice, the places where horses were tied.  In order to make pedestrian passage easier, a small, lower door was built into the larger set.  It's only about three feet high, occupying the lower half.

So each day, as I go out and come home, I must bow and bend low.  Whether I'm about to meet a new composer or church musician, whether I'm coming home with things from the grocer (I want American peanut butter back in my life!), whether I'm conferring with a priest or religious who wants to "mark my card," (Irish for "giving counsel") – in all these settings and so many more, I must exit and enter by stooping low in order that other things might be achieved.

Our friends and guests who've visited us thus far are amused and delighted by this portal.  Eilish, our parish secretary, calls it something far less glamorous: she calls it the "donkey door."  My wife sometimes refers to it as the "hobbit door."

But for me, it will always be the "Door of Humility," a reminder that not all I want to accomplish can be done on my own terms or on my own timeline.  There are greater forces at work here, and my best stance, more often than not, needs must be a posture of bowing down and bending low, that I might understand completely the holy ground upon which I walk.

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