A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of being a guest of the very hospitable faculty and seminarians of the North American College in Rome. As I was standing outside of the chapel waiting for evening prayer, my eyes were drawn to the ceiling where I saw a beautiful mosaic-like painting of…Aquarias, my zodiac sign? Where was the saint? Wasn’t this a Catholic seminary? On either side, there were more zodiac signs. A seminarian must have noticed my confused face as I stared straight up. “You have to know what you’re leaving behind in order to follow Christ,” he said. I laughed as if I knew what he was referring to and then was completely distracted throughout prayer. Over dinner, one of the faculty members explained that in many of Rome’s ancient churches, the front courtyard was where seekers would gather and learn about Christianity. Once they were ready to accept the faith, they would come inside, literally walking past their old beliefs into the sacred space of their new way of life.
It might not be the gods of the zodiac, but what do I need to walk past in order to really accept the challenge of living my faith? What are the “other gods” in my life that I need to name and leave behind in order to move “from slavery to freedom…from death to life”? As we pass through the threshold from Lent into Holy Week, perhaps the greater test of faith is not how I enter the church, but how I leave it.