Psalm 118: Inside the Gate

Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier, Priest

December 3, 2020


Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy,
we pray with Psalm 118
which describes the Lord’s strong city
and the gate which protects it.

Our opening passage from Isaiah exults in this Divine Strength, asking to be embraced  within its sacred space:

A strong city have we;
the Lord sets up walls and ramparts to protect us.
Open up the gates
to let in a nation that is just,
one that keeps faith.

Isaiah 26: 1-2

Jesus, in our Gospel, tells us that inclusion in the sanctuary must be merited by those who understand that God’s Will is for justice over all Creation:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

Matthew 7: 21

Thus we, longing to be among the included, we pray this Advent psalm:

Open to me the gates of justice;
I will enter them and give thanks to the LORD.
This gate is the LORD’s;
the just shall enter it.
I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me
and have been my savior.

Psalm 118: 19-21

As I meditate on these thoughts, our Motherhouse property offers many “icons” to reflect upon the concept of the “gate”. The entire campus is enclosed by various types of fencing or walls. There are four gates through which one may pass into the complex.

early photo of Motherhouse main gate , Montgomery County Historical Society. The open gate is barely visible against the small pine tree on the left of the opening.

I imagine that, when first installed, these great gates offered a more formidable enclosure than they do today. Only the wrought iron hinges remain of the main gate’s  double swing panels. Yet these, driven into imposing stone pillars, still suggest the firm purpose to create a sacred space.

You will notice the open gate just under the right side of the big tree

Inside the property, another wrought iron enclosure surrounds the community cemetery. This fence’s two gates are usually open, demonstrating that their purpose too is not security but rather sacred designation.

These venerable gates, rather than castle-like ramparts, are more like torii, those traditional Japanese gates found at the entrance or within a Shinto shrine where they symbolically mark the transition from the mundane to the sacred.

The famous torii at Itsukushima Shrine, Hiroshima, Japan

During Advent, we slowly pass through such a sacred symbolic gate, once again entering the holy mystery who is Jesus Christ. We pray to be transformed, not simply by the retelling of his story, but by the Living Grace he is for us in our own lives.

With today’s powerful readings, we pray to enter more deeply into that Mystery.


Poetry: Endless Time – Tagore

Time is endless in thy hands, my lord.
There is none to count thy minutes.
Days and nights pass and ages bloom and fade like flowers.

Thou knowest how to wait.
Thy centuries follow each other perfecting a small wild flower.

We have no time to lose,
and having no time we must scramble for a chance.
We are too poor to be late.

And thus it is that time goes by
while I give it to every querulous person who claims it,
and thine altar is empty of all offerings to the last.

At the end of the day I hasten in fear lest thy gate be shut;
but I find that yet there is time.

Music: Huanqiutan Garden – Oliver Shanti 

2 thoughts on “Psalm 118: Inside the Gate

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