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Sacred Signs
by Romano Guardini

DOORS



EVERYTIME we enter a church, if we but notice it, a question is

put to us. Why has a church doors? It seems a foolish question.

Naturally, to go in by. Yes, but doors are not necessary--only a

doorway. An opening with a board partition to close it off would

be a cheap and practical convenience of letting people out and

in. But the door serves more than a practical use; it is a

reminder.



When you step through the doorway of a church you are leaving the

outer-world behind and entering an inner world. The outside world

is a fair place abounding in life and activity, but also a place

with a mingling of the base and ugly. It is a sort of market

place, crossed and recrossed by all and sundry. Perhaps "unholy"

is not quite the word for it, yet there is something profane

about the world. Behind the church doors is an inner place,

separated from the market place, a silent, consecrated and holy

spot. It is very certain that the whole world is the work of God

and his gift to us, that we may meet Him anywhere, that

everything we receive is from God's hand, and, when received

religiously, is holy. Nevertheless men have always felt that

certain precincts were in a special manner set apart and

dedicated to God.



Between the outer and the inner world are the doors. They are the

barriers between the market place and the sanctuary, between what

belongs to the world at large and what has become consecrated to

God. And the door warns the man who opens it to go inside that he

must now leave behind the thoughts, wishes and cares which here

are out of place, his curiosity, his vanity, his worldly

interests, his secular self. "Make yourself clean. The ground you

tread is holy ground."



Do not rush through the doors. Let us take time to open our

hearts to their meaning and pause a moment beforehand so as to

make our entering-in a fully intended and recollected act.



The doors have yet something else to say. Notice how as you cross

the threshold you unconsciously lift your head and your eyes, and

how as you survey the great interior space of the church there

also takes place in you an inward expansion and enlargement. Its

great width and height have an analogy to infinity and eternity.

A church is a similitude of the heavenly dwelling place of God.

Mountains indeed are higher, the wide blue sky outside stretches

immeasurably further. But whereas outside space is unconfined and

formless, the portion of space set aside for the church has been

formed, fashioned, designed at every point with God in view. The

long pillared aisles, the width and solidity of the walls, the

high arched and vaulted roof, bring home to us that this is God's

house and the seat of his hidden presence.



It is the doors that admit us to this mysterious place. Lay

aside, they say, all that cramps and narrows, all that sinks the

mind. Open your heart, lift up your eyes. Let your soul be free,

for this is God's temple.



It is likewise the representation of you, yourself. For you, your

soul and your body, are the living temple of God. Open up that

temple, make it spacious, give it height.



Lift up your heads, O ye gates,

and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors,

and the King of Glory shall come in.



Heed the cry of the doors. Of small use to you is a house of wood

and stone unless you yourself are God's living dwelling. The high

arched gates may be lifted up, and the portals parted wide, but

unless the doors of your heart are open, how can the King of

Glory enter in?














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