On Sunday afternoon in a special ceremony in the Basilica Cathedral Notre Dame of Quebec City, the seventh Holy Door in the world and first and unique Holy Door in America, (after the ones in Rome (4), of Ars and of Compostela in Spain) will be opened. The Holy Door will remain open throughout the jubilee year, from December 8, 2013 to December 28th 2014. The ceremony marks the beginning of the 350th anniversary and jubilee year of the Cathedral of Quebec City.
Given the influence of Notre-Dame of Quebec through history, the Jubilee of the 350th anniversary will not be a diocesan celebration, nor a national event, but a Jubilee open to North America. On the occasion of the Jubilee of the 350th anniversary, to build a Holy Door in the Basilica-Cathedral Notre-Dame of Quebec is an exceptional privilege authorized by the Holy See to the first Catholic parish in North America, up north form the Spanish colonies. This door is a symbol of communion with the universal Church.
The Holy Door is first of all a real door, pierced in the wall of the Chapel of the Sacred Heart on the north side of the Basilica-Cathedral Notre-Dame of Quebec. It is an open door on a church that houses a community of living faith who remembers the words of Jesus: “I am the door of the sheep” and “enter through the narrow gate”.
That is why the Holy Door of the Basilica-Cathedral will be a suitable location for a commitment to personal and communal faith. Its passage calls for spiritual transformation.
Quebec City is the first canonical foundation made by the first bishop Francois de Laval, therefore becoming the ancestor of all the other Catholic parishes that have spread across Canada and the United States. Notre-Dame of Quebec held a key role in the development of Quebec, Canada… of North America, revealing itself, at one point in history, to be the largest diocese in the world. It became one of the pillars of the survival of French in North America. It has not only been an active witness of all the cultural changes that have shaped our society, but it has brought Christ to North America.
The Holy Door in Basilicas or Holy Places represents the pilgrim’s destination. The church is a sign of the House of God, of the promised Kingdom where God is ready as Father to welcome all his children, who through Christ and the power of the Spirit, and in the company of Mary, are walking towards Him. He is the great Door which opens to humankind access to the Father. He is the Door through which we must enter if we are to go to the House of God.
To focus on the door is to recall the responsibility of every believer to cross its threshold. To pass through this door means to confess that Jesus Christ is the Lord; to strengthen faith in him in order to live the new life which he has given us. It is a decision which presumes freedom to choose and also the courage to leave something behind, in the knowledge that what is gained is divine life.
Preparing the Doors of Our Lives
Each day we enter and leave by so many doors without ever noticing. It is good to stop and give thanks for all the doors God opens for us. We reflect first of all on Christ, the door to the Father, who knocks at the doors of our hearts, our homes and our churches.
The Door to our Hearts
We live in an age which longs for the presence of God. Our hearts search endlessly for meaning and purpose, never at rest until the grace of God enables us to answer his call. Christ stands at our hearts and knocks. He calls tenderly to us, and as in that upper room where the disciples huddled in fear, he calls out to us: ‘Do not fear! It is I!’ The first door I am called to prepare is the door to my heart. I am called to open my heart to Christ. Like Mary, who bore him deep within her body, Christ gives us the grace to open our hearts to the conversion, unity and justice of the Kingdom of God.
The Door to our Homes
We all remember the stories of the days of our grandparents when “no one locked their doors.” We now live in an age of deadbolts and alarm systems. Gone are the days we once knew when the doors of our homes would open regularly to grandma and grandpa and all the aunts, uncles and cousins. The doors of our homes don’t seem to swing open quite so easily or as often as they used to. Thus, the second challenge is to find a way to open the doors of our homes to our families, our friends and all who need us.
The Door to the Church
The third door of our lives is the door to the Church. The Church door is the silent witness to all the moments of our lives. It is at this door that the priest or deacon first welcomes the parents of the newborn child and reminds them of the joy that embraced them when first they held that child in their arms. The same Church door looks down years later when that child arrives to be married as the priest “receives the couple and greets them in a warm and friendly manner, showing that the church shares their joy.” Finally that door stands witness at the end of life as the body of the deceased Christian is received into Church at the beginning of the funeral liturgy. The Church door is the door to salvation, the portal of the Kingdom of God. Thus at the dedication of a Church the bishop invites the people to enter through these doors for the first time with the words: Go within his gates giving thanks, enter his courts with songs of praise.
Christ is our Door
Christ the Good Shepherd is the Door to the Kingdom. Christ himself is the door to life, and each of the casements of wood or metal which mark our churches or homes are but a reminder of him through whom we enter eternal life. Christ himself told us that he is the door to the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.
Christ is not only the door, he is the king who enters and the temple to whom the door leads! In days gone by the “door to heaven” was the sky from which God gave us manna (Psalm 78:22), but now Christ is the true bread come down from heaven (Nicodemus). Jacob saw the “the gateway to heaven” (Gen 28: 17) in the earthly shrine at Bethel, but when the martyr Stephen gazes at the door to heaven he sees “glory of God and Jesus.” (Acts 7:55)
Praying in union with the Church of Quebec City
As Archbishop Gérald Cyprien Lacroix opens the Holy Door of the Quebec Cathedral Basilica on Sunday evening, December 8, let us pray in union with him, the people of his diocese, (our mother diocese!) and all those who will pass through that door over the coming year:
Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe!
You bless our coming in and our going out,
from birth to death, you hold us in your care.
Bless this special door of the Quebec Cathedral
during this year of jubilee.
Draw us more deeply into your presence
and the wonders of your love for us.
You are the door to the Kingdom of God,
the sheep gate to life eternal, O portal of eternal peace,
our new and living way, loose our sins
and open for us the door to salvation.
Grant that through the power of the keys
we may be found worthy to enter the gateway to heaven
and rejoice forever at the nuptial feast in your presence,
our Bridegroom and our Lord,
for whom we wait and for whom we long.
Lead us home through you, to you,
and with you, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
For more information, see the very fine article by Leslie Scrivener in the Toronto Star (December 6, 2013)
Photo: Toronto Star