Morris West in his novel, The Clowns of God, writes, “Even in ancient times asylum was a mystic word. It connoted a sacred place, a temple, a shrine, a forest grove where a criminal or a runaway slave would find sanctuary from his pursuers and sleep safe under the guiding force of the resident god. It was not merely the in gathering which was important. It was the outgoing, as well: the outgoing of the power, the hope, the life-thrust, which sustained the panting fugitive for the last mile as the hounds bayed closer and closer at his heels. …”
I am struck by the twin movements:
- The furtive pushing toward sanctuary
- The outgoing power of hope
The community of faith must be that place where the battered of life can find safety. We do not think of the Church as that sort of place. Yet this is not just a notion from antiquity. On
my last trip to the United Kingdom I found a vivid example of this at Durham Cathedral. On the great doors of the cathedral is an gargoyle. If a fugitive reached that gargoyle and grabbed its tongue they were home free. No authority would dare compromise the holy place. There is a reason that the space behind the altar-rail is called the sanctuary.
What do we have to do to become a place for those looking for a safe place for their souls. We have a lot of work to do but we have a lot of grace at our disposal.