The Houses of Healing
We are broken women and men: we enter not the City of God as triumphant lords but as weary wanderers. Palm branches are not laid down before our path: instead, things seem as fire and smoke, a meaningless journey, an age-long dim ending. We Lenten pilgrims have long walked the steps of our journey: we have wrestled with our weaknesses, struggled with our sins, come face-to-face with our failings. As we approach the last leg of our journey, into the very city itself, full of tears and weariness, we are in need of healing.
The hands of the king are the hands of a healer: we know that for which we long. We can not find peace, restoration, renewal, or life except in the presence of our God and King: “Our heart is restless until it rests in you.” When the black breath of despair and exhaustion lingers upon us; when the shadow of doubt and brokenness pervades every step; when the light of good and true and beauty seems only a distant memory: then do we need such a physician who can take upon himself our burden, and can mend the darkened recesses of our hearts and minds. Such are the graces of the Sacraments of Confession and Anointing.
How can we characterize such healing? It is unique to every woman and man: Christ meets us where we are and gives us what we need and most deeply desire. In the presence of Faramir, great captain of Gondor, who longs for a past golden age of men full of nobility and wisdom, the king’s healing evokes a memory of untainted and uncorrupted lands of spring. In the presence of Éowyn, fair maiden and fair lady, who longs to escape the darkness of ignoble defilement and find deeds worthy of her love, the king’s healing awakens an air of freshness, youth, and purity. In the presence of Merry, simple hobbit of the Shire, who longs to do what little he can for the sake of his friends and of his home, the king’s healing kindles pastoral joys of fruit and harvest. Aragorn heals these three from the evil darkness of their despairing grief by calling them back to the things that make them most authentically themselves. God’s joy is our joy.
How should we respond the healing presence of the king? As Faramir softly speaks, “My lord, you called me. I come. What does the king command?” In the service of the king at a distance we have been wounded by sin. Having been restored, we should want to fulfill our service even more ardently to the king so near to us now. “Who would lie idle when the king has returned?” The Lord is in our midst: he now rides into Jerusalem. He has been born Incarnate, He has lived among us, and now He enters the earthly city to fulfill that purpose of love for us. Will we lie idle during this Holy Week when the king is at hand? Should we not instead seek our healing in every moment of His journey?
So are the longings of the wounded heart: for restoration, for what we love the most, for service to our Savior. No man or woman walks the pilgrim road without stumbling, or being ambushed by sin, or being wounded by some grief: long are the days of Lent, long are the days of life. Yet healing lies in the hands of the King, who offers us the most precious balm of all: our very own athelas leaves, bread and wine transubstantiated.