Rev. Fr. Alexander Castillo
Office of Worship
Diocese of Oakland
One of the visible components of the Jubilee celebration is the Holy Door. This sign has a profound meaning that all Catholics should explore, understand and appreciate.
First of all, the image of a door is very familiar to everybody. The door of our house is always there to welcome us after a hard day at work or at school. Those doors reunite us with our family. Through those doors our relatives and friends enter to our home, our sacred space, and gather with us.
The door is also an image profusely used in the Scripture. The doors marked with blood in the twelfth chapter of Exodus, became a sign of the liberation from Egypt for the people of the first covenant. In Psalm 24, the “ancient doors” are to be lifted up as the King of Glory enters. Moreover, Jesus himself said “I am the door. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” (John 10:9)
The Holy Door that is open during the Holy Year summarizes all these images from our daily lives and from the Bible, allowing us to experience the presence of God, who walks with us every day and makes possible for those who believe to pass from earthly life to the eternal joys of heaven.
The Holy Door is connected to another element of the Jubilee: the Pilgrimage. Pope Francis has explained that in a beautiful way: “The practice of pilgrimage has a special place in the Holy Year, because it represents the journey each of us makes in this life. Life itself is a pilgrimage, and the human being is a viator, a pilgrim travelling along the road, making his way to the desired destination. Similarly, to reach the Holy Door in Rome or in any other place in the world, everyone, each according to his or her ability, will have to make a pilgrimage. This will be a sign that mercy is also a goal to reach and requires dedication and sacrifice. May pilgrimage be an impetus to conversion: by crossing the threshold of the Holy Door, we will find the strength to embrace God’s mercy and dedicate ourselves to being merciful with others as the Father has been with us.” (Misericordiae Vultus, 14).
Making a pilgrimage and crossing of the Holy Door allow us to reflect about our identity as pilgrims in this world, travelling to eternal life, and help us to gain indulgences, which are also important elements of faith, helping us “to experience the holiness of the Church, who bestows upon all the fruits of Christ’s redemption, so that God’s love and forgiveness may extend everywhere.” (Misericordiae Vultus, 22)
The ritual to open the Holy Door comes to us from the 16th Century. It is done by the Pope at Saint Peter Basilica in the Vatican, as well by each Bishop in his own Diocese. Bishop Barber will open the Holy Door at the Cathedral of Christ the Light on December 13th at 10 a.m. We are all invited to join this celebration as well to do a pilgrimage to the Cathedral throughout the year.
Let us accept the invitation of Pope Francis and celebrate this Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy with open hearts, and become “merciful like the Father.”