This O-antiphon calls to the One who is referred to as the Key of David. He is this in the sense that it is he who, particularly through the death and resurrection of Jesus, will open for us and for all the mighty gates of Heaven. We are, as Luke phrases it, in darkness and in the shadow of death. Our 'natural' state is a state of lostness; such is the meaning of 'darkness' and 'the shadow of death'. Who will free us from this state? To enter the bright portals of Heaven we need a key. That is our key to happiness and we call out to the Key of David to open for us, by the coming of Jesus, the gates of eternal life. May this Key unlock for us what was, poetically, the unmoved, closed doors which will not allow us to live forever. As we look throughout our world, who, if not Jesus, will be the key to Heaven?
The Gospel speaks of Mary's visit to Elizabeth; the former is three months pregnant, and the latter is six months pregnant. The Gospel reading underlines the key role Mary played in our salvation. It is her obedience which allows God to dwell in her, to be born of her. Luke shows how important this Marian response is when he brings it so forcefully to our attention a second time. Her fidelity to God is total, even if she never does understand in her life on earth all that her motherhood means. Elizabeth's words about 'the mother of my Lord' is the first time Jesus is called Lord in the Gospel of Luke. She knows who Jesus is by virtue of the baby John's recognition of the identity of Jesus, the 'One Who is to Come', the one greater than John. But while we note the Christological significance of the words of Elizabeth, we also note that the broader context is also a lesson, a lesson in charity. The ideal community in Acts (2) is remarkable for its insistance that 'there be no one in need'. Mary in her own way hurries to help Elizabeth bring life into this world. May will bring Life into this world, but she already reveals her determination to love Elizabeth, no matter what the sizable cost may be. The Gospel teaches obedience to God, but also an eagerness to help another in need. Both lessons are appropriate as we think about how to celebrate Christmas.
John Kilgallen, SJ