O Clavis David

[Another installment a bit late as I expend energies on personal matters.]

O Clavis David,
et sceptrum domus IsraŽl,
qui aperis, et nemo claudit,
claudis, et nemo aperuit:
veni, et educ vinctum
de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris,
et umbra mortis.

O Key of David,
and scepter of the house of Israel,
you open, and no one shuts,
you shut, and no one opens:
come, and lead the prisoner
from jail,
seated in darkness
and in the shadow of death.

This is rendered in the well-known Protestant hymn:

O come, thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

A key offers access, presence, a place. It confers authority. He who has the key gains entry to that which is shut, and is able to determine who enters into the royal presence and who does not.

It is not well-received today to say that only in Christ is there access to the Father. But such declarations have never been well-received. Sadly, even those who today bear the name of this Key of David, waffle on this and invent all sorts of alternative pathways to the Father, and ridicule and persecute their own for defending this exclusivity. But if we deny that Christ is the only access to the Father, we not only sin against those who died because they held this truth, we sin against him who himself said this very thing.

But if the King is the one who rightly holds the keys of the kingdom, it is within that King’s power to confer those keys upon whom he will. And just as Eliakim was given those keys in the days of Israel’s kingdom, so, in the present kingdom of our Lord, has Peter been given those keys. And while Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians will differently understand the significance of the conferral on Peter of these keys, they nonetheless are united that Christ in fact conferred that authority upon the apostolic foundations of his Church, and it is that apostolic foundation which was given the authority to forgive and to retain, to open and to closeóin the name of the Lord of the Keys.

So while it is in Christ that we are granted access to the Father, Christ himself willed that we come to him in this Church founded upon his apostles. We have access to the Father only in Christ, and we have union with Christ only in his Church. Christ leads the prisoner from his dungeon to and in his Body. Christ harrows hell, to be sure, and the door he opens to the captive is himself, which is to say, that place where he lives and dwells, his Body, the Church.

The beauty of what this Key of David grants is not just rescue but renewal. We are not just redeemed as a person, we are incorporated into Christ by virtue of his Body. We are healed by becoming a member of a new nation, a special race. The isolation of our darkened cells is not merely alleviated but positively healed with the community of the New City, wherein old national, ethnic and racial differences are swallowed up and fulfilled. And these bishops upon whom are conferred the keys of the Kingdom, open wide the doors to us, that through water and fire, baptism and chrismation, we may safely gain access to him whose presence we seek and who compels us to come to him.

O Key of David, open to us this dungeon that we may flee, and your royal throne room that we may enter, and know both surcease and renewal, and freedom from death and life.

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