Excerpts from the liturgy for Tuesday, November 20:
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.”
When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” And he came down quickly, and received him with joy.
Reflecting on the readings in the pre-dawn dark of my apartment earlier this week, I thought of how I kind of love household chores, and keeping my little space cozy and ship-shape, and how I have always wanted to keep a place set for the uninvited guest.
In the twenty-odd years I’ve been a Catholic, I could count on one hand the times an uninvited guest has come. But no matter–because in a way I keep my house prepared for Christ.
Thus, if he did come and knock, he would know instantly he was in the “right” place. The little throne in the corner (a seat on the sofa: my prayer corner that I’d immediately cede), with a candle, incense, a book of the Psalms he loved and of stories about him, his teachings, his life, death, and resurrection.
There are pictures of him and his mother all over the place–a statue of him pointing to his Sacred Heart on my desk–carvings of him nailed to the Cross where his love for mankind was consummated.
There are prayer cards above the lintels of some of his favorite friends–Sister Benedicta of the Cross, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Oscar Romero, St. Dymphna, patron saint of the mentally ill. There’s music, again by some of his dearest friends: Beethoven, Bach, Glenn Gould, Billie Holiday.
There are books about different aspects of his life, and about our lives as we try to follow him. There are books by David Sedaris and Betty MacDonald, in case he needed a laugh, Raymond Chandler, Charles Dickens, Dostoevsky, Paul Elie, Robert Bresson, Flannery O’Connor, Georges Bernanos, and tons of others
There’s food and drink in the fridge, plenty of coffee, ice, first aid cream, Band-Aids, a hot water bottle, an extra toothbrush, a new cake of soap, fresh towels.
There’s a phone charger and a laptop, in case he wanted to catch up on his email. There are envelopes, stamps, pens and cards in case he felt like writing thank-you notes.
I’d of course sleep on the couch and give him my bed. There he would have a nice down comforter, a good reading light, a rosary of purple glass beads, a print of his treasured intimate St. Martin de Porres, tending the sick and feeding the mice, fairy lights strung around the ceiling to remind him of the moon and the stars which he arranged, a painting of the Brooklyn skyline by another of his (and my) friends, Matthew Kirby, who is still on his earthly journey, over the headboard.
There are Post-Its in case he came upon a passage in a book he wanted to mark and copy out later, Benadryl in case he was suffering from hay fever or insomnia, cherry cough drops.
Outside, there’s a west-facing balcony with a table and two chairs, shaded by bamboo blinds, strung with gold Chinese lantern lights, and overflowing with agaves, succulents, and homemade mobiles of seedpods,and pebbles where he could sit and watch the sunset.
There’s a garden! For no-one responds to a garden like Christ. He observed the mustard seed, the lilies of the field, the mulberry tree, the fig tree, the olive. He wept tears of blood the night before he died in the Garden at Gethsemane. He met Mary Magdalene in a garden after his Resurrection: “Mary.” “Rabboni!”
In a way, I have tended my garden, lost in thought and prayer, for the last three years simply so that, should Christ come to visit, I could welcome him there; could invite him to sit beneath the Joseph’s Coat climbing rose trellis; could share with him how I, too, love the plants and bushes and flowers and trees and butterflies and bees that the Father created.
There are a number of ways to experience Thanksgiving You can say it’s a secular, essentially commercial, holiday so who cares? You can say it’s just another day, so why participate?
Or you can think, How interesting that as we head into the dark, short days of winter, so many of us instinctively feel moved to gather around a table, with family or friends or, for that matter, strangers, and to light a lamp against the dark, and to remember, if even for a fleeting second, how lucky we are
I count myself among the latter group.
Because the fact is Christ knocked at my door a long time ago. I came down quickly and have received him with joy ever since.