Diocesan Pastoral Reflection on Mercy, part two
PASSING THROUGH THE HOLY DOOR
The Holy Door at the Saint Peter’s Basilica
The Holy Door was a gift to Pope Pius XII. Mons. Francesco von Streng, bishop of Basil-Lugano gave it to the Holy Father as a sign of gratitude of the Swiss people to God for having spared them from the horrors of World War II. The Holy Door is adorned with sixteen bronze panels. Each panel depicts the mysteries of God’s infinite and abundant mercy. It starts with man’s fall and ends up with man’s redemption. Each scenes provide a strong message of God’s forgiveness and emphatically imparts hope and acceptance for sinners who seek to return to God’s grace. The Holy Door serves as a perfect catechesis beginning with the sins of Adam and culminating with the life of Christ, the good Shepherd, who searches for those in his flock who have lost their way. There is a Latin inscription in every panel taken from the Gospel and from the Acts of he Apostles. The Latin inscription summarizes the salvific message of the specific scene depicted in each panel.
The sixteen panels with their corresponding inscription (translated into English) are the following:
The Angel at the gates of paradise
The Fall (the joy that Eve took away)
Mary: the Annunciation (you give back with your divine Son)
The Angel of the Annunciation
Christ’s baptism in the Jordan (you came to me?)
The lost sheep (saving what had been lost)
The merciful Father (father, I have sinned against heaven and against you)
The cure of a paralytic (get up, pick up your stretcher and walk)
The woman who was a sinner (her sins, many as they are, have been forgiven her)
The need of forgiveness (seventy-seven times)
Peter’s denial (and the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter)
In front of the crucifix: the good thief (today you will be with me in Paradise)
The appearance to Thomas (blessed are those who believe)
Christ’s appearance to His disciples (receive the Holy Spirit)
The conversion of Saul (I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting)
Opening of the Holy Door (look, I am standing at the door, knocking)
At the bottom of the Holy Door are two Latin epigraphs: on the left side is narrative of the history of the door. It reads “Pius XII, Pontifex Maximus as the Holy Year 1950 drew near, ordered Ludovico Kaas, curator of Peter’s temple, to adorn the Vatican Basilica with the bronze panels of this Holy Door.” On the right side is the description of the rewards of spiritual riches for those who pass the Holy Door. It promises that “from here the waters of divine grace flow abundantly, may they purify the soul of anyone who enters, restoring their spirit with divine peace and adorning them with Christian virtues. Holy Year 1950.”
As we pass the Holy Doors in the Diocese of Balanga, let these be our movements:
Everytime we climb a ladder or take a first step, we tend to look down. Everytime we enter a passage or a door, we instinctively look down to remove our shoes or to wipe our feet. As I stood before the Holy Door, I looked down myself and I realized my nothingness. Before God, I am nobody. I have nothing to be proud of. Everything I have are of God’s gifts bestowed by His goodness. “Looking down on myself” makes me realize that God is everything. God is the source. He is the answer. I cannot rely on my position or on my titles. I have to depend to God. It is really only He whom I need. “Looking down on myself” leads me to be sorry for my sins and shortcomings; to be contrite for my misdeeds and mistakes; to regret my faults and failures.
This Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy is a challenge for me to look down on myself and not to look down on others.
As we enter a place, we focus our sight and attention on what is in front of us. We look straight. To look straight evolves a feeling of accomplishments and a sense of honesty. Looking straight signifies that there is nothing to hide. There is nothing to be ashamed of. When I entered the Holy Door I felt I was standing before God to report to Him what has happened to my life thus far. And the question that came into my mind was “Can I look straight to Him?”
If we don’t have anything to hide, if we have no hidden agenda nor any material ambition, then we can look straight at God and at anyone. If we have not compromise any Gospel values, nor become fence-sitters indifferent to those who were in need or have suffered unjustly, then we can look straight at anybody. If we act morally and speak truthfully, we can stand proud and look straight.
This Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy impels me to make full use of my God given talents and not to squander His gifts. I resolve not to neglect my responsibilities nor abuse the trust of others. Then, I can look straight into their eyes.
When we are inside in any house, we look around to politely acknowledge the presence of the hosts and the other people present. To look around is to be aware of those who are in our midst. To look around is to be attentive to the pressing situation.
In life, we have to look around so that we will not lose anyone or neglect someone. We have to look around in order to find out who are those in need of our care and concern, our help and healing. We look around so that no one will think that he is forgotten or abandoned. We look around so that everyone will feel welcome and accepted.
This Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, God is looking around to find us and to bring us back to His loving fold. Let us also look around to see those who are asking for our love and forgiveness. Let us look around to search for those who have been left behind so that we can lead them back to God.
The Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy urges us to look up to Christ, to look up to the Cross which is our only source of redemption and the channel of God’s infinite graces.
And now as we exit, let us know that whenever we go, we always have to lift up our hearts to Christ and to look up to His Cross.
+Ruperto Cruz Santos, DD
Bishop of Balanga and CBCP
Episcopal Chairman for the Pastoral care of Migrants and Itinerant People