In John 10: 7, Our Lord says, "Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All whoever have come are thieves and robbers; but the sheep have not heard them. I am the door. If anyone enter by Me he shall be safe, and shall go in and out, and shall find pastures." The Holy Father has been reaffirming this and calling on the Blessed Virgin Mary to be our guide, to light our way to her Divine Son - to lead us through the Door. In countless photos taken at apparition sites around the world, a door miraculously showed up when shooting a picture. While Polaroid played it down that it was part of their aperture, they can't explain why 35mm cameras also showed this as well as video cameras, as well as the human eye. Our Lady is always endeavoring to show us the door to her Son's Sacred Heart through her Immaculate Heart. His Holiness John Paul II has long used this imagery, utilizing the phrase "threshold" - another moniker for a door - in his writings and capped with his bestselling "Crossing the threshold of Hope." Now he is physically prepared to cross that threshold when he gently wraps and pushes both the left and right side of the massive, iron entrance to St. Peter's. In a symbolic gesture of his own humanity and to lead his universal flock, inviting them to join him on the pilgrimage into the new millennium and the era of Hope, the Holy Father has declined the traditional hammer in favor of using his hand, representing the fact that he is the servant of the servants.
It is also an indication that we are all pilgrims on the voyage of life and he is our earthly guide. We all have the same destination, but many veer off course. With the Pope as our skipper on the good ship Barque of Peter we are able to steer safely through the obstacles, guided to safe harbor through the ever-present beacons of the twin pillars of the Holy Eucharist and Immaculate Heart of Mary. The door, as we said, represents Christ - and by crossing that threshold at Baptism we come into a new life. It is the only way to get to the other side - Heaven - through the Door, the symbol of salvation. Throughout Scripture the door flows with imagery; many metaphors are used to represent what it offers - from receiving Sanctifying grace through Baptism and Confession to Heaven and Jesus Himself going through the door of the Sepulchre in order to fulfill the promise of salvation for "I am the Resurrection and the Life" (John 11: 25). The metaphor of the door goes back to Old Testament time as well for a great door separated the Holy of Holies from the common people. Only the anointed and high priests had access through the great doors guarding the Ark of the Covenant in the Jewish Temple. Not until Christ came and proclaimed Himself the Door for the Gentiles was the Holy of Holies available to all with the Blessed Sacrament. Yet to every Tabernacle and the entrance to the churches a door still stands, symbolizing that all cross from the temporal into the supernatural when they enter into His presence.
To ease our transition from one side of the door to the other Our Lord has made it readily accessible for all. Not all are willing to take that step and that is where we come in - as spiritual guidedogs through our prayer and example. The Holy Father, by way of his appointment as the successor of Peter, holds the keys of the Kingdom. But he does not use the keys to open the door for it has already been unlocked for us through the Messiah's Passion, Death and Resurrection. Thus, to show his solidarity with his flock, the Supreme Pontiff eschews the key to open the unlocked door inviting all to pass through the portal with him on the path to everlasting life.
There are countless other examples of the door, but suffice it to say we are strongly invited by Christ and His Vicar on earth to cross that threshold where awaits the great known. There is the tale of the two doors where one leads to earthly riches, while the other leads to the a man-eating tiger. Which door do we open? So also in life there is the door to life everlasting and the door to eternal damnation. The difference is that we know which door contains which. We have a free will to enter the right door. Many do not always do so. As much as the signs are all there for all to see the right door, man's vices often blur his vision and he mistakenly chooses the wrong door. The Holy Father is intent on providing passage through the Right Door.
Thus, through a specific rite of passage this Christmas Eve the Pope will usher in the new era with the Jubilee Year 2000. The ritual of knocking three times is symbolic of Moses striking the rock for the water to flow and Christ striking (metaphorically) the "Rock" - Petra (cf. Matthew 16: 18) which through him and Our Lord's Holy Church the water of Baptism flows continuously. This continues at every door to every church where just inside the door is the Holy Water font - the font of life - whereby we remind ourselves we have crossed the threshold and are in the presence of the Holiest of Holies. Sadly, today, in so many of the "auditorium churches" He is sorely missing, stuck in a closet-like room somewhere in the back or on the side, no longer the main focus. The main focus of the Pope knocking on the door have meaning as well. In the latest issue of Inside the Vatican we quote "The road which leads to truth is not always without obstacles: those three hammer strokes remind us of the resistance we will meet on the way toward Truth...a resistance that will be overcome only by Faith, which is capable of casting down any wall to reach the Divine Mercy." On Holy Saturday before the Easter Vigil the celebrant knocks three times after each of which is incanted "Lumen Christi", "Light of Christ" for it was through the door of the tomb where Christ emerged from the darkness of hell to the everlasting light (cf. Apostles' Creed). And now, through the example and inspiration of Christ, His chosen Vicar will lead us through this symbolic Holy Door. Before he does so, water again comes into play for he will wash the lintel or the area that spans the top of the door supporting the wall above the door three times. Again the number three for the Trinity. Once he has done this, he will then ceremoniously walk over the threshold into St. Peter's and into the Jubilee Year. He will repeat this ceremony at the Lateran Church Basilica the next day on Christmas, the church which in the first millennium was the seat of the Holy See. A week later on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God he will open the Holy Door at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major and complete the Holy Door quadrant on Tuesday, January 18 at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls with an ecumenical celebration of Vespers to mark the start of a week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The Pope is taking the unprecedented step of opening all four doors, the first Pontiff to ever do so, in order to symbolize the four corners of the earth the Gospel should be preached in order to cover the earth "and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28: 19) and in Mark 16: 15, "Go into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature." These are truly necessary for the new millennium - a millennium of hope, faith and love.
Love seems to be lost as the faith wanes and hope dims for many nations and often the Holy Father is the lone voice crying in the wilderness for those poor and persecuted people. This has been proven again and again with third world countries gaining little notice from the super powers unless they have something to offer such as oil or other minerals. That is the main reason it took so long for the world to react in Kosovo and East Timor, and why Africa is in turmoil today. Only the Pope stands as the good shepherd to these beleaguered people begging for a piece of bread for Christmas while we here in America merrily set new records for Christmas spending; where excess has become a way of life and the economy is booming while others go to bed starving, if they have a bed to lie in at all! There is one word we all need to learn in this Jubilee Year: Share! That's what Christ expects of us and anything less - well, we'll be held accountable. No amount of millennium madness will replace the simple virtues of faith, hope and charity - charity to all, especially God's most vanquished and downtrodden.
The downtrodden don't feel much like celebrating the new millennium because hope seems lost. Only God can restore that hope and we can be His instruments through our prayer, example and giving of ourselves and our riches to others. These are the sobering thoughts our Holy Father keeps instilling in his flock. By doing that we will have all the more reason to fully celebrate this special event that happens only once every 1,000 years. We've all had it with the millennium hype and the Y2K rhetoric, but this Jubilee Year 2000 is special - very, very special and the Vatican should get an A+ for promotion and marketing. It will be an eventful year that not only is offering a special Plenary Jubilee Indulgence to pilgrims, but also marks the historic "Jubilee Journey" which the Holy Father will embark on a journey that no Sovereign Pontiff has, nor few others, ever taken. Though his "Jubilee Journey" was going to begin with where it all began - near the Tigris and Euphrates and Ur of the Chaldean - where God charged Abraham with the faith of His chosen people, current political and security reasons prevent the Holy Father from traveling to Iraq thus far. It still is not out of the question, but for now is on hold. Nevertheless, though not yet confirmed by the Vatican, the Israeli government released the Pope's itinerary for the Holy Land that will be not only ambitious and grueling, but highly significant...yet dangerous. We say this because threats against the Pope's life have surfaced, supposedly circulated by Islamic radicals. Security will be at an all-time high when he is scheduled to arrive first at Amman in Jordan on March 20th which next year will be the official Feast of Saint Joseph, foster father of Our Lord, earthly spouse and protector of Mary. In Jordan the Holy Father will visit Mount Nebo, the place where Moses is said to have looked down on the promised land though he himself was not allowed to enter. John Paul II will also travel to the site of where Our Lord was baptized by John the Baptist. The next day he will fly to Tel Aviv where, after formal greetings by political leaders including Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak on the Jewish observance of Purim, he will be escorted to Jerusalem where he'll pray at the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. Two days later he will travel to Palestine, welcomed by Yasser Arafat and be taken to Bethlehem's Basilica of the Nativity and then north to Galilee with stops in Tiberias and Capharnaum in retracing the footsteps of Christ. While there he will also speak to an estimated 50,000 on the dusty climes of the Mount of Beatitudes just as Jesus did nearly two millenniums ago. While there is still much to be clarified in regards his traveling to Nazareth because of the conflict over the proposed mosque next to the Basilica of the Annunciation, the Holy Father still hopes to be there on the glorious Feast of the Annunciation of Our Lord on Saturday, March 25th.
The whole journey will basically be illustrated for him when he faces the Holy Door this Friday night for on the massive iron door are sixteen relief depictions of our journey in Faith. The first two represent Adam and Eve's expulsion from the Garden of Eden, the next two signify the Annunciation when God sent the second Eve - Mary - to be the door through which Christ would come into this world. The fifth panel depicts Christ's Baptism in the River Jordan; the next the Good Shepherd finding the lost sheep; the seventh illustrates the prodigal son and the eighth the centurion who felt he was unworthy for Christ to come under his roof - a refrain we repeat daily each time before we are to receive Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. The ninth panel is the scene where Mary Magdalene washes her Master's feet at the banquet; the tenth the betrayal of Judas Iscariot; the eleventh the denial of Peter and the twelfth, in harmony with the stations of the cross, is the Crucifixion. The thirteenth is Thomas the doubting Apostle placing his hands in the wounds of Christ; the fourteenth is Our Lord's command to go into the world and baptise all; the fifteenth is the conversion of Saul on the way to Tarsus and the sixteenth panel depicts the Pope (in this case it looks like Pope Pius XII since he commissioned the door) knocking on the Holy Door with the special ceremonial hammer, the same hammer John Paul II is discarding in favor of using his hand for this special opening in opening wide the doors of, to and for Christ. He will close it physically again on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 2001 when the Jubilee Year 2000 will officially end. Over the next 378 days millions are expected to pass through this door and millions more will have this opportunity spiritually and through the special plenary Jubilee Indulgence available to all pilgrims whether they stay home in their own parish or travel to Rome. For no matter where we are, the Holy Door signifies that we can bloom where we are planted because the Door is wherever we are for Christ, as He confirmed in Matthew 28: 20, is with us always. And He isn't far away, as the Holy Door signifies, all we need do is follow the Holy Father's example and knock, as Jesus says in Matthew 7: 7, Luke 11:9 and as reaffirmed in Apocalypse/Revelation 3: 20, "Knock, and it shall be opened to you."
The present collection is divided into five "books," perhaps in imitation of the five Books of the Pentateuch. But internal evidence shows that there existed at an earlier period more numerous, smaller collections which were gradually gathered together to form the present Psalter.
In form and subject matter the psalms are most varied. Some were composed for liturgical use in the temple; others, for private reading. In some psalms the singer is an individual; in others, the community. One of the most common types is that of supplicatin to God for His help in various spiritual and temporal needs. But humns of thanksgiving and of praise are also numerous. Less frequent are poems written primarily to discuss some problem or to teach some lesson.
Prefixed to most of the psalms are certain words and phrases which offer traditional information about the psalm, such as the tone in which it is to be sung, the musical instruments which are to accompany its singing, the historical circumstances connected in some way with its composition, the name of its author, and so forth. These "titles," as they are called, were added, at least in most cases, by later writers. It cannot be proved that they were divinely inspired. They have some value, however, as representing ancient tradition. They are printed here in smaller type. About half of the psalms are attributed in these "titles" to David. The Davidic authorship of some of these is confirmed in the New Testament and, at least in these cases, cannot prudently be called into question. Some other psalms are attributed to certain groups of temple-singers known as "the sons of Core" and "the sons of Asph." One psalm each is ascribed to Moses, Solomon, Herman and Ethan. About a third of the psalms have no author's name prefixed to them. Although some of the psalms appear to have been composed during the early post-exilic period (the fifth and fourth centuries B.C.), it cannot be demonstrated that any psalms are as late as the Machabean age.
The Book of Proverbs is an anthology of didactic poetry forming part of the sapiential literature of the Old Testament. Its primary purpose, indicated in the first sentence (1, 2f), is to teach wisdom. It is thus directed particularly to the young and inexperienced (1, 4); but also to those who desire advanced training in wisdom (1, 5f). The wisdom which the book teaches, covers a wide field of human and divine activity, ranging from matters purely secular to most lofty moral and religious truths, such as God's omniscience (5, 21; 15, 3-11), power (19, 21; 21, 30); providence (20, 1-24), goodness (15, 29), and the joy and strength resulting from abandonment to Him (3, 5; 16, 20; 18, 10). The teaching of the entire book is placed on a firm religious foundation by the principle that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" (1, 7; cf. 9, 10).
To Solomon are explicitly ascribed parts II and V of the book, which means at least their substance. Of Agur (part VI) and Lamuel (part VIII) nothing further is known. Parts III and IV are attributed to "the wise." The remaining parts are anonymous.
The manner of compilation is conjectural. Parts II and V may have circulated first as independent collections, compiled before the fall of Jerusalem, as the references to Solomon (10, 1) and Ezechias (25, 1) indicate. The rest was added at various later times. No definite date can be assigned to the completion of the work.
Christ and the Apostles often expressly quoted the Proverbs (John 7, 38; Rom. 12, 20; James 4, 6) or repeated their teaching; compare Luke 10, 14, and Prov. 25, 7; 1 Pet. 4, 8; James 5, 20 and Prov. 10, 12. The book has an important place in the Latin and Greek liturgies.
The book is concerned with the purpose and value of human life. While admitting the existence of a divine plan, it considers such a plan to be hidden from man, who seeks happiness without ever finding it here below (3, 11; 8, 7, 17). Ecclesiastes applies his "Vanity of vanities" to everything "under the sun," even to that wisdom which seeks to find at least a semblance of good in things of the world. Merit does not yield happiness for it is often tried by suffering. Riches and pleasures do not avail. Existence is monotonous, enjoyment fleeting and vain; darkness quickly follows. Life, then, is an enigma beyond human ability to solve.
While Ecclesiastes concedes that there is an advantage for man in the enjoyment of certain legitimate pleasures lest he lapse into pessiminism and despair, he nevertheless considers this indulgence also vanity unless man returns due thanks to the Creator who has given him all. Under this aspect, earthly wisdom would rise to the higher level of true spiritual wisdom. This true wisdom is not found "under the sun" but is perceived only by the light of faith, inasmuch as it rests with God, who is the final Judge of the good and the bad, and whose reign endures forever. The Epilogue gives the clue to this thought (12, 13f).
The author of the Canticle, using the same literary figure, paints a beautiful picture of the ideal Israel, the chosen people of the Old and New Testaments, whom the Lord led by degrees to an exalted spiritual union with Himself in the bond of perfect love. When the Canticle is thus interpreted there is no reason for surprise at the tone of the poem, which employs in its description the courtship and marriage customs of the author's time. Moreover, the poem is not an allegory in which each remark, e.g., in the dialogue of the lovers, has a higher meaning. It is a parable in which the true meaning of mutual love comes from the poem as a whole.
While the Canticle is thus commonly understood by most Catholic scholars, it is also possible to see in it an inspired portrayal of ideal human love. Here we would have from God a description of the sacredness and the depth of married union.
Although the poem is attributed to Solomon in the traditional title (1, 1), the language and style of the work, among other considerations, point to a time after the end of the Babylonian Exile (538 B.C.) as that in which an unknown poet composed this masterpiece. The structure of the Canticle is difficult to analyze; here it is regarded as a lyric dialogue, with dramatic movement and interest.
The use of marriage as a symbol, characteristic of the Canticle, is found extensively also in the New Testament (Matt. 9, 15; 25, 1-13); John 3, 29; 2 Cor. 11, 2; Eph. 5, 23-32; Apoc. 19, 7ff; 21, 9ff). In Christian tradition, the Canticle has been interpreted in terms of the union between Christ and the Church and, particularly by Saint Bernard, of the union between Christ and the individual soul. Throughout the liturgy, especially in the Little Office, there is a consistent application of the Canticle of Canticles to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The primary purpose of the sacred author was the edification of his co-religionists in a time when they had experienced suffering and oppression, in part at least at the hands of apostate fellow Jews. To convey his messaged he made use of the popular religious themes of his time, namely the splendor and worth of Divine Wisdom (6: 22 to 11: 1), the glorious events of the Exodus (11, 2-12, 27; 15: 18-19, 22), the folly of idolatry (13: 1- 15, 17), and the manner in which God's justice is vindicated in rewarding or punishing the individual soul (1: 1-6, 21). The first ten chapters especially form a a close and intimate preparation for the fuller teachings of Christ and His Church. Many passages from this section of the book, notably 3: 1-8, are used by the Church in her liturgy.