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The Way of Beauty'Behold, I stand at the door and knock.'

“Light of the World,” a nineteenth-century painting by the Englishman, W. Holman Hunt, perhaps best captures the human narrative.

The Painting and Its Symbolism

In this unconventional and highly personal work of art, Jesus, crowned with thorns, stands outside a door and knocks.  He is asking for permission to enter. The door can’t be opened from the outside because it has no handle on it.  The rusty nails and hinges are overgrown with ivy and weeds, presumably because the door hasn’t been opened in years or perhaps never opened.  

The sealed door represents the human heart choked by cares, which prevent one from opening it. For the artist, the door symbolizes “the obstinately shut mind.”

Shown in the painting are two lights.  The one inside the lantern symbolizes the light of conscience, and the halo around Jesus’ head, the light of peace and hope of salvation.  The painting illustrates two verses: one from the Johannine Gospel: “I am the light of the world,” and the other, from the Book of Revelation: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and dine with you and you with me” (8:12; 3:20).  

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The Battle from Within

Jesus standing as priest, prophet, and king, is the sole figure in this painting.  Still the focus of attention lies outside the picture. Behind the door stands every man or woman as a hidden presence.  What might this individual feel, think, desire, fear as he or she decides on a response.  What to do, if anything?

What we say to ourselves is far more important than what we say to others.  Thus begins the inner combat with sparring.  Quid volo?  What do I desire?  What do I really desire? What are my options?  Ignore the knock?  Call out: Go away?  Not now, later?  If I open the door, what will I be getting myself into?

Discipleship?      How much will discipleship cost me? Peter too asked this question.  The Lord’s reply? ‘Lose your life, and you will find it.’  

These nagging thoughts provoke other thoughts by day, by night.

The Decision

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Without reservation, I will choose to follow the Lord as his companion and ardent disciple.  Taking a deep breath, I unlock the door, turn the knob and open.  My vision is transfixed with sheer wonder. I see before me the glorious Lord of the universe.  In fact, I am standing in the presence of all the saints, headed by Mary and Joseph, all my loved ones, all my role models who are prompting me to join their company.  And how many are there who, one century after another, have brought a little light and joy to others through their talents?  

My Prayer . . .

In the presence of this esteemed company, I recall what I have received. I thank God for having created me … for having redeemed me … for so many personal gifts! For all that I have been given, what ought I return to God? In the spirit of overflowing gratitude and love, I pray:

TAKE, LORD, into your possession,
my complete freedom of action,
my memory, my understanding and my entire will,
all that I have, all that I own: it is your gift to me.
I now return it to you.  
It is all yours to be used simply as you wish.  
Give me your love and your grace.  
It is all I need.

God Living in All Things

I see God’s imprint everywhere: in matter, giving it existence; in plants, giving them life; in animals, giving them consciousness; in men and women, giving them intelligence.

God lives in me, giving me existence, life, consciousness, intelligence. More, He makes me his temple, since I have been created wearing the divine image and likeness.

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord.  Bless the Lord, my soul; never forget all that he has done for you.

God at Work in All Things

Nothing happens by chance. I think of God energizing all things, as though he were at work in every created reality, in the sky, in matter, plants and fruits, animals, and in me. By acting in every event, God’s inscrutable will is in play.  He heals me, and through each event, challenges me to grow. All creation is in the hands of Providence.

As a disciple, I am called on to cooperate with the divine plan in building a compassionate world according to my gifts and limitations.  

All Good Gifts from Above

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I realize that all gifts and benefits come from above.  My ability and gifts come from a loving God.  They come down like sunbeams from the sun or streams from their source.  “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”  

By choosing to be a companion of the Lord, my life is modeled after the Master. This human-divine relationship, real though unequal, this great exchange may sometimes bring exciting and joyful moments, even dull or painful moments, but life with the Lord is always meaningful.  I conclude with a favorite prayer or simply an Our Father.

–Paraphrase of the “Contemplation for Obtaining Love” in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.  His feast day is celebrated on Friday, July 31st.
 

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