O Key of David and sceptre of Israel
what you open no one can close again;
what you close no one can open.
O come to lead the captive from prison;
free those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Todays “O Antiphon” is almost directly taken from various parts of scripture (cf Rev 3:7ff; Lk 1:79a). In this “O Antiphon” we have reference again to King David. Our Lord is addressed as “Key of David and sceptre of Israel”, which are symbols of royal power and authority. We read in St Matthews Gospel Mt 16:13ff, in that well known passage at Caesarea Philippi, where in answer to Jesus’ question “who do you say I am?” Simon Peter spoke up, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. Jesus replied, “Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: you are Peter and on this rock i will build my Church and the gates of the underworld will never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.”

So Jesus has conferred his power and authority to his Church in the person of Peter and his successors. The Church is all about forgiving sin – salvation. It is through the Church at our Baptism that we gain entrance into the kingdom of heaven. At our Baptism we are freed from Original Sin and all personal sins. We become members of Christ’s Body and through his Holy Spirit dwelling in us we can address God as our Father. What a wonderful gift Baptism is!

We receive the theological virtues of faith, hope and love; as well as the gifts of the Holy Spirit – but our faith, hope and love need to be nurtured by prayer and the Sacraments. “By her relationship with Christ”, to quote from ‘The Dogmatic Constitution on the Church’ of Vatican II, “the Church is a kind of sacrament or sing of intimate union with God and of the unity of all mankind”. What a gift the Church is and how we should love her! Henri de Lubac, speaking on his death bed about the two great loves of his life, Christ and the Church, said “For what would I ever know of him without her”. Recently the Archbishop of New York, Timothy Dolan, speaking at the 6th los Angeles Catholic Prayer Breakfast, said “the largest Christian demomination in our country today are former Catholics. We are living in an era whare people want to have Christ without his Church”. Perhaps the same could be said of Europe?

In “The Prayer for the Church in Ireland” Pope Benedict opened with the words “God of our fathers, renew us in the faith which is our life and salvation”. Our own St Catherine of Siena constantly prayed for and spoke of “the light of holy faith”. So in today’s “O Antiphon” we beseech Our Lord – the Key of David – to open our hearts and minds to the light of holy faith; to lead the captive from prison – the prison of unbelief, of sin, of shame; and to quote the Intercession at Evening Prayer “You are Life and the enemy of death – rescue us and all the faithful departed from eternal darkness. AMEN”