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Access to the House of God

Posted by Theology of Home on
Access to the House of God

By Denise Trull

“But I through the greatness of your love
have access to your house.”

This little verse tucked away in Psalm 5 gave my heart a little start one morning as I prayed Lauds by my living room window. It’s a beautiful expression of a wonderful truth, as many of the inspired Psalms are -- expressions that are filled with comfort and awe at the same time. It is the word ‘access’ that gave me pause. Access has an intimate, trusting appeal to it. It speaks of someone who has openly allowed us to enter and exit the door to their inner sanctum, which is perhaps locked to mere strangers. In a beautiful and loving trust, we have been given the key.

This thought brought back a long ago, but vivid memory of a sun drenched little room ensconced within a larger, German-built church that was my parish for many years. Renovations had inevitably happened over time throughout the church: new paint, statues refurbished, the altar turned around, the confessionals re-varnished.

One year, when our new pastor Father Edward arrived, he was very insistent that we have a Eucharistic Chapel. Being quite devoted to the Blessed Sacrament himself, he knew that our parish would be blessed by twenty-four hour adoration. But where to build such a chapel? In the vestibule, there was a little room off to the side, having been, at one time, the old baptistry. It had four, narrow, but beautiful stained glass windows that caught the western sun as it set between the brick houses on our city street outside.

Our pastor got to work and recruited the “Hardly Able” crew of retired handymen at the Church. The walls were painted a beautiful, creamy white. Our Lady of Guadalupe was hung on one wall and St. Joseph graced the other. And in the middle was this jewel of a little altar that Father Edward had found somewhere in his rummaging through discarded finery in various, old city church basements. He was very resourceful, Father Edward. He covered this white, wooden altar inlaid with bright squares of green, blue, and yellow glass with a snowy lace altar linen and placed there a beautiful, golden tabernacle with a glass window at the center. Large brass candlesticks on either side continually flickered warmth. And here is where Jesus would dwell among us night and day.

My adoration times were short and scattered throughout the week, as I had many little ones at home and could only step out for a moment or two and run the three blocks up to the Church for a quick visit. But no matter when I opened that door to this beautiful little chapel, there would be Miguel sitting quite contentedly in his chair by the altar. Miguel was always there. He was an old, smiling, gentle, Mexican man who nodded courteously to me when I entered and sometimes even pulled out my chair. He was lovely.

Miguel was homeless, I think. We had many homeless people in our city parish. They were always welcomed by Father Edward. Old city parishes are filled with what you might call characters. We had our share. Father always pointed out that they were not merely homeless people, because in very truth, we might be entertaining angels without our realizing it. He was always kind to them and shared a joke or two. He never patronized them. And he always very tenderly gave them Holy Communion at Mass. He made sure they didn’t go hungry. He was aware that these, his most humble of parishioners, might be Jesus in “distressing disguise.” Miguel was one of these humble children, and Father Edward gave him the password to the lock on the Church door, so he could spend his day with Jesus in the little chapel. Miguel, in a very real sense, was given access to the house of God. Miguel, as Father Edward knew better than I, was worthy of the key. 

How do we come to grant someone access to our house?

When we think we might actually like someone we have chanced to meet, and we make the decision that we just might want to have them as a friend, we begin by wanting conversation. We seek out ways to be around them more often, to hear their thoughts on things, to take in their expressions and mannerisms. This may start over coffee somewhere or perhaps a walk through a park, or a stroll through a museum. Over time, however, as we begin to be more sure of the friendship, we invite this friend to our home. We go out on a tentative limb and give them “access.”

At first, we clean and polish and maybe have a nice dinner with the “good” dishes. We feel a little shy perhaps when they enter the door for the first time. For this is where we…live. This is our inner sanctum, our place of retreat, where we are who we are. These protecting walls know things, have heard intimate tete a tete’s between ourselves and our husbands. These walls protect all our dearest memories, and the people we cherish. These walls have seen us fall apart in tears, and have echoed with our uncontrolled laughter. We pad about these rooms in glorious old slippers and messy hair sometimes. We come home here to bind our wounds inflicted by the world and to rest in the familiar that always welcomes us like a mother’s enfolding arms. We may have second thoughts about bringing a stranger here, but we screw up our courage and allow this new person we have come to love enter our walls, with the determined caveat that it be under “decorated” circumstances. It’s still a slight risk, this first access. It carries a feeling of company veneer. There is still an element of control in us as we unlock the door with an unspoken warning: “this far and no further.” It is all a clean, fine china, and linen napkin kind of affair.

If we begin to truly love our new friend and begin to trust them more, they are allowed access any time. We can start leaving the laundry baskets out, or dishes in the sink. We can pull out a beer for them and sit at the kitchen table in our sweats and hoodie -– maybe even with the pounding of kids feet above or even a bolder toddler bringing them a toy to look at. We are okay with them hearing a tantrum or two, actually opening our creatively stuffed refrigerator that may boast a few expiration dates.

As time goes on, we might even meet them at the door in our slippers and messy hair, hugging them with a face full of tears and perhaps falling into their unsurprised arms. We may exuberantly pull them inside to read a new book of poetry before they can even get their coat off. This kind of access is the access to our hearts. Where we live. Who we are. All our joys, mistakes, sorrows, regrets, our obvious lack of having it all under control. They might eventually even have access to our intimate sorrows or anguish as they are drawn deeper and deeper into the rooms of our hearts. We invite them to dwell in the secret comfort of our “house” and they see it all. Full access. It’s scary being who we really are with someone we truly have come to love as a friend. To give them access is to tell them that we trust them, and dearly. They have been given our key.

Psalm 5 assures us that God, in the greatness of His love, has given us full access to His house. He may begin by drawing us to Himself through the beautiful. He may swirl incense about us at a High Mass, and dazzle us with gorgeous spectacle and praise, with music and pageantry. At the beginning of our spiritual journey, we may find that we cannot look away from this new and wondrous friend. He may speak to us in Scripture and fill us with consolation and comfort and delight. He might invite us to sit with His mother sometimes as she tells us His story bead by bead slipping through our fingers. Slowly, He begins to invite us deeper into the inner rooms where He shares His more intimate secrets and where He invites us to give Him our own. Eventually, He trustingly opens up His anguish and intimate sorrows to us. 

Each morning at daily Mass, we are given the key. We are given access to the very center of His heart. There He is on the altar so vulnerable before us. He is wounded, stripped naked, despised. He is bleeding and overwhelmed and saddened by the hardness of hearts and the sting of those who deny and spit on Him with their cold unbelief or their lukewarm, turned away gaze. He cannot even move unless the priest picks up the Host and moves Him. He is helpless. And He lets us see it. We have been given access to His heart in its beauty but now also in its reality of sorrow and disappointment as well. He trusts us with His wounds. To think about that stirs the heart to an ache. That we have been so trusted to see Him this way in all his vulnerability. And how can we not embrace Him in love by receiving Him into our own hearts’ core? It is what friends do in the inner sanctum of a house in which they have gained access. They love intimately, gratefully, generously -- together.

Sweet, gentle Miguel was such a friend to Jesus. Every day he would unlock the door to the Eucharistic Chapel, drag his chair as close as he could to the tabernacle and talk with Jesus.  He was the kind of friend who was given access to the inner rooms -- the anguish. Miguel knew suffering, knew want, knew helplessness and the indifference of the world and he had accepted it as a gift to give. He leaned in and showed it to Christ, who quietly waited in His small, golden house, and Christ leaned out in love to show His own sufferings to Miguel. Together they shared an intimacy I have only dreamed of. I always felt like an honored guest who was allowed to sit in my chair and watch Miguel’s face as He talked silently to Jesus with his eyes. I often wondered what he saw. I longed to be worthy of that kind of access one day.

We begin our friendship with God in wonder, beauty, praise, and joy sometimes. God goes slowly with us, waiting for us to be ready. But sooner or later we are given and trusted with the key to the inner rooms of His heart. That key is our accepted sufferings offered to Him. It is up to us to turn it in the lock as Miguel had so bravely done. Then only will the door be opened to the inner heart of God. Only then will we have full access to His house; through the greatness of His love we will share in His redemptive suffering and give Him our own.  

I wonder sometimes if I was not entertaining an angel in the form of a sweet, old Mexican man as I prayed in that tiny little chapel. Bless you, Miguel, wherever you may be, for showing me the key. May I be brave enough to turn it in the lock and open the door on a wonder I have never dared to dream of, but you have -- that shining, inner room where dwells the beautiful, suffering heart of God given for the life of each of us and for the whole world. A God who only asks for our own suffering heart in return. This is friendship. This is access to the house of God.

Denise Trull is the editor in chief of Sostenuto, an online journal for writers and thinkers of every kind to share their work with each other. Her own writing is also featured regularly at Theology of Home, and has appeared in Dappled Things. She also can be found at her Substack, The Inscapist. Denise is the mother of seven grown, adventurous children and has acquired the illustrious title of grandmother. She lives with her husband Tony in St. Louis, Missouri.

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