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Life is the Vestibule of Eternity

At the Basilica of Belmont Abbey, the vestibule is a small, dimly lit entryway. Along the outside walls are tables containing literature about the Abbey. But unless you make a deliberate effort to stop and examine the material, you will usually just walk by hardly noticing it. There is a large stone off to the side and, once again, if you do not make the special effort to read the plaque on the stone, you will quickly pass it by.

Why not stay there? Because you are not at the Basilica to remain in the vestibule; you are there to enter the beautiful sanctuary for worship. The vestibule serves its purpose of preparing you to enter the place of worship; it is not the sanctuary. It is not why you came to the Basilica. During the school year the vestibule is where students leave their books, wet umbrellas are set aside, and men take their hats off before entering the worship service. The vestibule is a place of preparation for entering the sanctuary to worship and meet the Lord. You do not expect to stay in the vestibule, and you understand this before you ever enter the Basilica. No one plans to worship the Lord in the vestibule.

The double doors to the sanctuary from the vestibule open wide and invite you into the worship space. As you enter this spacious, sacred worship space, your eyes are immediately directed to the altar and the large crucifix suspend in mid-air over it. Your attention is upon the Lord from your first glance. The long center aisle draws you to the altar at the front of the sanctuary to meet Him.

The contrast between the vestibule and the sanctuary is profound: preparation vs presence, passageway vs destination, temporary vs permanent, stark vs beautiful and inviting, earthly vs heavenly.

Fr. Solanus Casey said, “Life is the vestibule of eternity.” This is worthy of prolonged meditation. Leaving the vestibule for the sanctuary should be our mindset with life just as much as it is entering the Basilica. This life is a passageway and not the destination. It is temporary and not permanent. First Chronicles 29:15 says, “We are strangers and travelers, like all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow.” Heaven is our eternal destination and our time on earth is our journey to that destination. At the Basilica no one desires to stay in the vestibule exceedingly long because the sanctuary and the worship of our Lord is the destination. Therefore, in an analogous manner, we should not want to stay forever on earth. It is not our home. We are on a pilgrimage to the heavenly sanctuary of our Lord. Why settle for anything less than heaven? Why cling to that which is fleeting? It is important that we keep our eyes on the sanctuary of heaven, our destination goal, and not only the vestibule of earth.

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