This is the second story for our Lenten series. It ison the theme of Being, and picks up after the knight has entered the castle. The first sermon is linked at the bottom of this article.
After stabling his horse, the man who had escorted him in took the knight up to the roof of the gatehouse where they could overlook both the castle and the valley outside. The man waited patiently, regarding the knight with an untroubled expression. "My lord, may I ask questions?" Asked the knight. "You surely may," said the man, "but do not call me 'Lord,’ we have but one Lord in this castle." "My apologies, sir" replied the knight. The man indicated it was of little consequence and a common mistake. "Ask me your questions." The knight looked down at the open gate. "This could be an impregnable castle. If there were strong gates, it would take months for siege engines to breach the walls. But the castle has no way to bar entry!" The man replied, "The castle indeed has walls to define the here from the there. Boundaries are important for people. They help define who they are and provide identity. But unlike fortresses of human construction, our courteous Lord has decreed that the gates of this castle shall never be barred. The only person that can deny entry to this castle is oneself."
The knight looked out beyond the castle to the mass of silent people around the castle. They stood there, looking at the gates. Every once in a while, one would make as if to take a step forward, but then would draw back. "Who are they, and why do they stand there?" The man looked out and smiled lightly and sadly, "They are the seekers. They wish to enter the castle, but they cannot pluck up the courage, either because they feel they are unworthy to enter, or because they are afraid of being changed upon entering. They are right to do so, because no one leaves unchanged, even though it is a change for the better. Sometimes it is easier to hold onto the guilt, shame and feelings of unworthiness one has made a part of oneself than to let it go and step into the unknown of the castle. Every once in a while, a seeker will finally pluck up the courage and step forward. On those days, the whole castle celebrates, no matter how noble or common that person is. Just yesterday, a cook from a local baron's kitchen 'took the step' as we call it." He gestured to a young woman in common clothing walking the battlements with a companion.
The knight turned outward again and looked beyond the field to the village. Even from this distance, he could see the people frantically bustling to and fro and the knights lining up at the jousting field in their endless contest. "And what of the village? Why are they so obsessively busy? And why do the knights tilt endlessly?" The man looked out towards the village, and he sighed. "There are those who are seekers for so long that they lose hope, and go back to the village in despair. There are also those who come for the wrong reasons, seeking power or fame or glory. The peace and equality of the castle makes it impossible for them to come closer." "And why do they not acknowledge one another or the castle?" The man paused, "When you cannot 'take the step' for long enough, or the peace of the castle threatens your self-identity, a retreat into constant activity promises escape. Real rest and meaningful interaction with others would bring them face to face with their true selves. Many of them come to tell themselves that the castle itself does not exist and that their busyness is all that exists, because it's easier to deny that it is there than to admit that they cannot currently enter."
The knight paused, then spoke, "Will it be thus forever? Will people be always unable to enter the castle because of pride, or despair, or pain? " The man was thoughtful, looking out over the village and the field. "I do not know. We in the castle are taught that there is judgement, but also mercy. Many of us believe that at the end, our courteous Lord will perform a mighty act that will reconcile all things. We do not speculate how this can be or what form it will take, only that it will happen. But now, good sir, you have come into the castle. Let us survey where you have come to."
They turned and looked inside the castle. The knight's practiced military eye went over the towers and the walls, then looked at each of the gates. He noticed that they each had a different colored gem inset into the inner wall of the gatehouses. "Why are there four gatehouses, each with a different gem?" "The people that seek the castle are diverse. They each come with different strengths and weaknesses. Each gate is easier for some and harder for others. Those seekers who find the correct gate for them have an easier time 'taking the step.' You came in through the gate of action, of emerald, which is best suited for you. There are also the gates of diamond, which is clarity or learning, ruby, which is closeness or relationship, and sapphire, which is depth or contemplation.
The knights eyes fell from the defensive buildings to the interior keep, where he discerned three main buildings. The most prominent had the look of a great hall. "What is that building there in the center of the keep?" "That is the audience hall, where our Lord keeps court. It is there you will learn conversation." The knight looked at him quizzically, "I have spent my life in gentle conversation. Have I more to learn?" The man replied, "Conversation with our Lord is different. It is deeper, at the level of our very being. Sometimes courteous, and sometimes very... direct."
The knight's eye moved on to a quadrangle with a large courtyard. "And what is that?" "That is the guild hall, where you will learn how to live. You know much about life outside the castle, but so do the villagers. You must learn how to live inside so you can return outside and take the learnings of the castle with you." "And that?" asked the knight, looking at a smaller keep near the wall of the caste. "That is the armory, where we equip ourselves to Sally." "Sally? Thats a raid. You said this is a castle of peace. What do you mean by that?" "While we believe that our Lord will reconcile all things at the end, there is much we can do in the meantime on his behalf. Many seekers and villagers who cannot move themselves can be moved by a gentle word or kindness from others. We learn to converse and live so we can serve the world. As he shows compassion to us, so we show compassion to those gathered around the castle. But now, gentle sirrah, you must be exhausted. Let us see to your horse and make sure he is provided for, then you can eat and sleep. The teaching can wait while you recover." The knight took a last look about him - the village, the field, the audience hall, the guild hall, the armory. His eyes dwelt on the maid walking with her companion on the battlements, then he followed the man downstairs.