For the opening of the millennium jubilee year in 2000, Pope John Paul II unsealed and opened a special door of St. Peter's. So most of our churches focused on the theme of opening doors.
Doors are very much a reality in our everyday lives but also can continue to assist us in our reception of the divine.
All of us open and close many doors throughout the day. We panic when we have forgotten our keys and cannot open the door to our home when we return from shopping or work.
Doors give us privacy and keep us safe from the elements but they also give us the power to shut out or allow in.
A sacred door
Each of us has a sacred door, the door to our heart through which we can welcome or keep out. Advent, this season of hope, is the time of opening doors. While our commercial society celebrates Christmas throughout December, we commit ourselves to deepening our relationship with God, to being open doors to the sacred.
When our doorbell rings, we realize that someone is at the door. But if we have loud music playing or some other loud noise, we won't hear the signal. Therefore, we have to be alert in everyday life.
Attentiveness is key in the spiritual life, too. Busyness, anxiety and fear can prevent us from hearing the knocking at the door of our heart. Advent is a wake-up call, challenging us to become more aware of the divine knocking.
Scripture speaks of this need for vigilance: "I slept but my heart was awake. Listen, my beloved is knocking. 'Open'" (Song of Songs 5:2). Holy Wisdom speaks in a similar manner: "Happy is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors" (Proverbs 8:34).
Readiness to open the door is needed for a meeting to take place. We check to see who's there. How we welcome others into our lives may be a sign of how we welcome the divine.
When the angel knocked at the door of her heart, Mary was hesitant and asked for clarification. But this faith-filled woman responded and opened her door to the divine, enabling salvation for humanity. Elizabeth, too, joyfully opened the door of her heart and of her home to receive Mary (Luke 1:39-45).
A closed mind
On the other hand, Zechariah shut the door of his heart by refusing to believe in the power of God. Because the door of his mind was closed, so too was the door of his speech. When later, he opened the door of his mind and heart, the door of his speech was re-opened.
We have all kept our doors closed at certain times when opening might harm us. But sometimes, our fears of self-doubt and the possibility of being hurt or the time and energy that might be asked of us keeps us from opening our hearts. And yet, opening the door may, as it did with Mary and Elizabeth, bring much joy and unexpected grace to us and to those who enter.
During Advent, it can be an enlightening experience to ask ourselves what the door to our heart looks like. Is it a solid block (scriptural "heart of stone") or is it transparent and authentic? Is it flexible, opening easily to other ideas and people of other cultures?
Or is it like a door swinging off its hinges, letting everything in with no discernment? What signs do we keep on our door? "Welcome" or "Do not disturb"? Is there a lock and what or who holds the key?
Jesus describes himself as door or gate to the sacred: "I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved" (John 10:9).
As preparation for the coming of Christ into our hearts, each time we open a door or enter through a doorway can serve as a reminder of Christ knocking: "Listen! I stand at the door knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and have supper with you" (Revelation 3:20).
Then, God's presence within us can shine through to others and bring the light of Christ to their lives.