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At 4 A.M, this disturbing dream awoke me; it seemed to continue until 6:50 A.M. when I climbed out of bed to record it:

I was sitting in the locked ward of the day room of an old psychiatric hospital. The poorly groomed patients wore faded gowns that tied in the back, their feet bare. The staff was rowdy, handled them rough, especially when administering injections or medications, or subduing them in four-point restraints. The noise was deafening. I’m not sure why I was there. The morning wore on. Then, Father Reinert, the Jesuit President of St. Louis University, was let into the day room where with a sorrowful look he signed the Guest Book with a large black fountain pen.

Such upheaval in my psyche suggests the insanity of profound disorientation: despair, drugged violence, lack of focus and voice, and lack of body awareness. Extreme poverty assigns them as wards of the already impoverished state. Their caregivers hate their duties but see no way to better themselves. Like flotsam floating atop oceans, there is no communication.

The flap of two of my caregivers may have given rise to this dream and my needless dependence upon them, especially since I am managing without them.

Indeed, my psyche also bore the smells of that setting that resembled the old St. Louis State Psychiatrist Hospital on Arsenal Street, my 1983 assignment for my ACPE training in chaplaincy. In both that summer experience and the dream, the challenge is to recognize my internal mayhem lest it infect others and impede the trajectory of my end-times.

The presence of Father Reinert, the Jesuit President of St. Louis University, in the day room was a surprise, given his habitual cheerfulness. Perhaps he was coming to see me. I need guidance.

O Key of David and Scepter of the House of Israel;

you open and no one can shut;

you shut and no one can open:

Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,

those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

The fourth O Antiphon addresses the longed-for Messiah as the Key of David and Scepter, drawn from Isaiah 9:6 and 22:22.

Again, we begin with metaphors of royal power. Whoever possesses keys has the means to imprison others, either literally or psychologically or spiritually: a bonding to another occurs. Whoever holds the scepter, an ancient symbol of imperial sovereignty, holds absolute sway over nations; they are controlled, sometimes locked down within rules and regulations, benevolent or sadistic.

The Israelites’ checkered experience with their kings and those of neighboring countries led them to long for a Messiah, with power to effect vital and lasting change. Intermittent warfare only weakened them. Centuries of exile under the Egyptians, Assyrians, and Babylonians further undermined their sense of being Yahweh’s chosen people. Living in darkness and the shadow of death grieved them. A few did remember better times and yearned for a different way of life.

Like all the other O Antiphons, the imperative Come seeks the Messiah’s intervention in His people’s suffering, largely caused by ignorance and self-will. Only He can bring about lasting change.

And are we that different from the ancient Israelites? Living in self-imposed prisons of fear and doubt? Our sloth compounding our darkness? Speaking for myself, I think not, especially since I’m living within the shadow of death.

I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord – Psalm 104: 33-34

These verses taken from the Creation Psalm speak of heart-prayer that is unique, wordless, and intimate: It’s like falling in love within boundless joys replete with scintillating lights—The bliss of colors hushes the soul and invites deeper exploration, but we can’t abide there now. Still to be lived is this life, in all its complexities.

Yet, even now, we can catch glimpses of eternal life that we co-create with our Lover. These sustain us until our transition.

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