Today…. March 21, 2020… would have been our parish Quiet Day. When it was planned, the coronavirus pandemic we are now living was, if visible at all, a tiny cloud on a faraway horizon. We saw ourselves together at a retreat house on the northern edge of the Island of Montreal, right across the road from the Bois de Liesse nature park. The day was cancelled, of course. So was the June group pilgrimage to Iona. A diocesan pilgrimage earlier that same month to Portugal and Spain was deferred for 12 months. Nobody is going anywhere. I’m in my house. So, I hope, are you.
So I bring that stuckness with me when I bump up against this morning’s Psalm 87 celebrating Jerusalem:
“The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob….The singers and the dancers will say ‘All my fresh springs are in you.’”
If only I could go…. anywhere! The desire to go in person to a holy place is one we probably all know. Simply attending church on a Sunday. Leaving our pew and moving in a deliberate way towards the front for communion. Travelling, if we have that privilege, to the Holy Land or to the shrine of a saint or to a mecca of a culture that nourishes us…. Place des Arts….The Louvre…. Broadway… a local historic site or museum. Even Disney Land or Vegas or a shopping mall can take on, in the form of a parody, a surrounding ethos any pilgrim would recognize.
What these holy (or holy-ish) places seem to hold out is the chance to shed the dreary dailyness of our lives for a moment. To be different, better, purer, more single minded, more intentional.
To drink from that fresh spring. Have our creativity renewed.
And yet. Something happened in the here and now. Before I even opened the scripture, a Taizé song started running and running in my mind. “The kingdom of God is justice and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Come, Lord, and open in us the gates of your kingdom.” You can listen to it here.
The first time I heard this prayer… driving across Montreal with a new Taizé CD in the car … I couldn’t believe my ears. –‘That’s where it is? The gates are inside us?’ Yes, indeed.
So the answer appeared before the question. God (who is outside linear time of course) is very occasionally completely wild like that. Yes, the gates are in us. We don’t need to travel to find them.
The Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob….
The singers and the dancers will say ‘All my fresh springs are in you.’