Sunday, June 15, 2008
The Door of Pardon
But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious...
I was upset, as usual, over things I hadn't done that day: the clothes I was going to take to the thrift shop, the letter I'd meant to write. Another day when my good intentions outpaced my energy. Then I remembered a car trip.
It was a route traveled by millions of people in the Middle Ages. Even by car it was a long day, 900 miles from Paris to the northwest corner of Spain and the shrine of Santiago de Compostela. For the medieval traveler, intent on receiving the blessing vouchsafed to those who reached the goal, it was a journey of months across mountains, swamps and waterless plains.
Almost at the end of the journey—just 75 miles to go—comes the steepest, most difficult stretch of all, the lonely Cantabrian Mountains. The travelers by that time were exhausted, many lame or ill.
As the road began to rise, my husband John and I came to an ancient, almost windowless church in the middle of a weed-grown field, an unimpressive little building but for a weathered wooden door in a side wall. This was Puerta del Perdon, the Door of Pardon. Out of pity for those who could go no farther, this spot had been given a special status. To step through this door was to receive the same blessing as those who made it all the way to Compostela.
Many glorious churches have been built along the pilgrim route, but this squat, barren little chapel is the one I think of most often. A door of pardon — what a boon on the lifelong journey too! “You fell short of your ideals,” it says. “But it’s all right. You’re on the right road. I am blessing you right where you are.”
Lord of the journey, lift my eyes from my failures to the door forever open to Your grace.
The above article by Elizabeth Sherill is excerpted from Guidepost Magazine’s OurPrayer Companion.