Childhood memories take me back to an Easter holiday spent in an old mansion house in the Border country of Scotland. Our lady hostess was surprisingly generous in her “freedom to roam” license and there was much to explore. To my delight, two little secret doors were waiting unlocked and ready to fire a child’s imagination. One door was located in an upper bedroom, leading to an attic storeroom running along the roof space with skylight windows. It was filled with an assortment of discarded artefacts and pieces of antique furniture from bygone days when family history was in the making.
The other door was discovered at the far end of an extensive garden, ivy covered and neglected, reminiscent of the locked entrance to The Secret Garden, a heart-warming story of love and triumph over disaster, illness and prejudice. The door to that garden was found by Mary, a sad and lonely child and it became the gateway to a fulfilling change in her life. The first impact is described thus, “Once inside she stood with her back against it (the door) and breathing quite fast with excitement and wonder and delight…she could come through the door under the ivy any time, and she felt as if she had found a world all her own.”
The story brings together a group of disparate characters, adults and children motivated by compassion and united in determination to bring about a happy result for their efforts and a future full of hope.
Such too were the plans of a group of friends who cared for a paralysed man in the time of Jesus. They longed to help him. Hearing that Jesus had healed many of their diseases and that he would be at a particular venue, they arrived, earnestly hoping for a miracle. Finding that the doorway was blocked by a thronging crowd, they made a hole in the roof and lowered the makeshift stretcher to the place where Jesus stood. When he saw their faith, he rewarded it with healing and a whole new life began for the disabled friend.
In John ch.10, we read the words of Jesus. “I am the door; whoever enters through me will be saved. He (or she) will come in and go out and find pasture. I have come that they (the flock) may have life and have it to the full.”
As we close another year and look through the mist of the new year rising, with all its unknown opportunities and sometimes daunting events, we may take endless comfort and assurance each new day, that the Shepherd of our souls is the One who stands at the entrance. He has expressed his desire and purpose that we may have life through faith in his redeeming death and resurrection and the sustaining joy of peace with God.
Perhaps, as you look ahead, you can see as a metaphor, the unlocking of the door to the Secret Garden. It became a place of production, shared interests and goals reached, obstacles overcome, and new skills discovered. New links and associations may be waiting just over the horizon, along with the satisfaction of deepening existing ones.
Here, to make our own, is the Novena prayer for each one who stands at the open door of the future, either with eager anticipation, or hesitating with concerns.
O God of invitation
as we stand at the door,
as we ask the hard questions,
as we search you out,
may we sense you already at work
preparing a feast of answers
drawing us over the threshold
and satisfying all our hungers.
Happy New Year.