Adam wasn’t sure how the Castle had suddenly appeared or where it had come from. Colorful banners flew over ancient battlements, and a mighty, unassailable power flowed in the shadows of its walls. He only remembered being carried along in an endless multitude, towards the Castle’s broad welcoming gates.    

        Beyond the massive doors was a corridor of flawless white marble, hung with gold embossed mirrors, and life-sized statues of august rulers, each on their own bronze pedestal. A strange music that enthralled, strengthened, and delighted, urged one further and further onwards. The pressing crowd became more and more restless, filled with desire and unnamed longings.

       At last, everyone pressed forward into a great Hall. Adam stopped in amazement. The Hall seemed to go on forever. Its high, windowless walls gleamed with a faint shadow-less light that filled every space. Countless stands and long counters were arranged throughout the Hall, each displaying splendid and costly wares. Tables of gold coin and pendants, jewels in precious settings, and clothing worn only by the wealthiest; there were silver hangings, chalices, glass formed into heavenly visions, rings of emerald, diamond, and ruby, paintings by new and unknown masters, silver plate, and tapestries woven with silken thread. 

       The people flowed forward like a tide, eager and joyful, each one seeking what their heart most desired. At every table stood servants helping each seeker to fulfill their endless wishes.

        The more Adam saw the more uneasy he became. Finally, he stopped at a large counter that displayed gold rings. ‘How may I serve you sir,’ the servant asked. ‘This one would fit your perfectly. Note the perfect setting, and how it enhances both dignity and pride. If you would prefer another there is much to choose from. Remember, all you see is free. Our Beneficent Prince wishes everyone complete happiness. Your desire is our command’.

        Adam felt a fear hidden somewhere in depths he had always been aware of but had never entered, something deep and watchful that rose up from where it had been waiting. A precious fear that from the beginning of time protected the heart’s truest desire- that which could never be possessed, only embraced.

        Adam began desperately searching for a way into the free, away from the Castle. There must be a door, he kept repeating as he walked seeking through the Great Hall. Farther and farther he searched, on and on along the high featureless marble walls that glowed with their faint golden light. Then he remembered, castles have many doors, but they are hidden so that the world outside be forgotten.

         The music sought to sooth him, smiling servants beckoned, and the Hall continued to become larger and larger. Finally, he stopped, and returned to a blank section of the wall. Gently he felt along its surface until his fingers felt a faint crack in the hard marble. He followed it down and across, realizing that it was a door that was not to be seen, but known only to the presence of touch. Slowly he pushed against it. A small, narrow section of the wall opened outward.

         Adam walked through the opening into the soft green light of a beautiful cloister with high graceful arches and a low stone wall that sheltered the prayers prayed in the joy and sorrow of every heart.  Monks walked and prayed in the open shade of the cloister’s consoling warmth, and bird song filled the sunny garden. In the midst of the scents and hues of flowers and blossoming trees, was a well from which flowed a small stream that quenched every thirst and brought rest to the weary.

          Adam stood still and quiet, feeling the cloisters breathing hope and gentle solace, helping him to remember all that was to be remembered. Here he longed to spend the rest of his days. Then, one of the monks stopped before him. ‘If you listen, you will hear a Voice that comes from the place where all words live. These cloisters are of you, but not for you. This you know in the Peace you embrace, and in the pain that Peace embraces. We have chosen poverty to protect the prayers that are prayed by the poor, but poverty has chosen you to be the prayer of the poor’. Then he said, ‘the door you are seeking is there’, and pointed to a round stone tower at the far end of the cloisters.

          Here Adam entered an empty room. It was the place of Silence, the Waiting, that which was close, but beyond, that, which was heard, but only in the unforeseen.  And hidden in that Waiting, Adam found a new door. Its solid weight opened like a breath.

          There were fields and mountains, meadows and forests, streams, flowers and grassy banks. The air was filled with the scent of a thousand blossoms; their colors, vivid and soft, singing songs of the Beginning that only the deepest memory could hold. Here, truth was Goodness, and life was Wonder, and they were known as one. Everything was alive, not just living, but Life. Adam no longer felt the depths of himself, but the depth of that which had no measure.

        And as he looked down, he saw in the shadows of a deep valley, the Castle, with the town huddled around high bastions in fear of all that lay beyond power and plenty. He watched people gathering outside the Castle’s gate as they did every day, heard the sighs of despair in their happiness, and the sorrow in their rejoicing. And his heart was pierced with the wound that only love can give.

        He knew that this distant valley was where he must go. Here he would find the Loved One wandering, risking all to bring Peace to the hunger that had no name, and Remembering to the depths that had no measure. Here wandered the One who embraced all who were lost as a lover, who rejoices at the beloved’s return and counts each heart as his own. Here the Voice of the Silence was waiting to be heard, and the Garden, once again, waiting to bloom.

                                                                            

David Russell OFS  Fyn