A fortified city, encircled by ramparts that prevent anyone from entering or leaving, is a striking image of separation. It represents the very negation of Love without limits.
Every separation caused by a lack of love is sinful, whatever form it may take. All sin is separation. Separation, in fact, is the ultimate sin.
To separate oneself, to become and remain a stranger to other people, goes against the very direction of life’s evolution. Primitive animals isolated themselves within thick protective coverings. They took refuge behind their powerful weapons of defense. Gradually yet increasingly they lost these defensive means as their nervous systems developed. This permitted them to extend the range of their contacts. Human beings are the least protected of all living creatures, and at the same time they are the most open to communication. Such was the creative will of the Lord of Love.
At times a person or group of persons can take the form of a closed city. We would like to approach them and take up with them a genuinely loving relationship. But the city has shut its gates against us.
What then can we do? Mount an assault against the ramparts? Certainly not. We need, rather, to circle the walls of the fortress several times, seven times, even seventy-seven times, and to do so in silence. We need to circle those walls with a quiet and respectful attitude, without troubling ourselves over the rocks and insults that might be cast at us. Above all, in making this movement, we need to carry with us the Ark of the Covenant, the sign of our covenantal relationship with the Lord of Love. That is, we need to bear and to offer everything within us that is the most sacred and the most generous.
This we need to do until the moment when the Lord of Love tells us, “Now I have placed this person into your hands. I have broken down the wall of separation. I give this person to you, as I give you to that person.”
It may be that we will come to the end of our life without ever seeing the other person respond to our love. Yet in a sense we will even then be victorious. For by “attacking” those who willingly isolate themselves, and by doing so with Love, we cause our own walls to tumble in ruins.
Haven’t I in fact barricaded myself against Love? The hostile fortress is first of all myself!
The walls of an enclosed city were not built in a day. They required years to construct. Day after day I have added stone upon stone, in order to build up an ever-higher wall of self-centeredness. I have isolated myself by a double wall of protection. First, by the wall of my words and destructive acts, visible to everyone. Then there is the invisible rampart that is far more insidious, which consists of my thoughts compulsively focused on myself.
The strongholds we have constructed have nevertheless been attacked. Who has assaulted the closed city that exists within each of us? It’s other people. It’s Love.
It is not easy for us to tear down the walls we construct within ourselves. We cannot simply remove the stones, one by one. Yet the Lord of Love surrounds us constantly, patiently, doing what human hands are incapable of doing. Simple adjustments are not enough. To be set free requires a profound transformation. To roll away the stone that closes the entrance to the tomb requires a veritable earthquake. Our walls are broken down only when they are shaken at their very foundations.
“O Lord of Love, shake me to those foundations! By striking one stone against another we can make sparks fly. May the shock produced by the crumbling of walls of separation light within me the fires of longing, allowing me to be consumed by the Burning Bush! May every miserable barrier in my life be broken down by the assault to my depths of Love without limits!”