The doorkeeper on the threshold
A few months ago, as I was preparing to read the Responsorial Psalm at a daily Mass, I was struck by the psalm’s final words, “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness” (84.11).
The line spoke to me directly as words from Scripture often do. The doorkeeper, I imagined, would be the odd man out, the one exposed to cruel desert storms, the one who would defend a tent from roaming bands of murderous thieves. Life inside the tent would be far safer and much more comfortable.
But, the doorkeeper? He might be the towering defenceman of the clan. More likely, he was the last guy picked to be on the team, the man who was deemed most expendable. If somebody had to die, he would be the best choice.
I’m moving into a new period of my life; it’s time to serve as the doorkeeper who spends his nights guarding the tent of the Lord. Doorkeepers are needed in a society where tents of wickedness are in increasing supply, where some churches close their doors forever, where there is spirituality, but not much faith. Few want to be doorkeepers at the Lord’s house.
God’s Doorkeeper could have been the name of this website, but I cringed at the thought. A doorkeeper’s apparent task is to keep visitors on the outside unless they have a good reason for being allowed in. Far better, in my view, to open doors than to bar the entrance.
As well, labelling myself as God’s doorkeeper would be most presumptuous. I can aspire to serve the Lord, but the judgment as to whether I succeed, in whole or in part, belongs to God. It would not be God’s Doorkeeper.
I looked through other translations of the psalms and came to Robert Alter’s rendering of 84.11: “(Better) standing on the threshold in the house of my God, than living in the tents of wickedness” (The Book of Psalms, W.W. Norton & Company, 2007).
Standing on the threshold of God’s house offers hope. One remains exposed to dark forces, but the invitation to enter is real. The thought of what one might find inside is tantalizing.
Standing on the threshold is our state of being in this world. Ron Rolheiser is correct in saying we are in exile. However, we are in exile because we are standing on the threshold, waiting for the bridegroom to carry us into our eternal home.
This will be a potpourri of reflections and reporting. On the Threshold is becoming more real for me every year. The old piece of logic – Socrates is a man; all men are mortal; therefore, Socrates is mortal – has become more than an abstract truth as I wander into my mid-sixties. Every person will eventually stand on the threshold of eternal life.
I promise you nothing in particular as we stand on the threshold. This website will develop a life of its own. Reports on events; discussions with the Master of the tent; maybe some guest writers.
We all yearn for the eternal home where God will be all in all. However, God on this side is found in the ordinary. Personally, I trust small steps and ordinary events more than gaudy extravaganzas. Maybe we will get extravaganzas after the final trumpet blows, but for now, God lives in the ordinary.
I hope you will wait on the threshold with me. It will be an adventure. Ponder and then act, act in a way that points beyond the threshold into the greatest life that will ever be.
29 September 2016
Feast of Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, archangels