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O Key of David

The Fourth Antiphon: Clavis David

Come, and bring forth the captive from his prison.

"O Key of David, and Scepter of the House of Israel, who opens and no man shuts, who shuts and no man opens; Come and bring forth the captive from his prison, he who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death."

The key is the emblem of authority and power. Christ is the Key of the House of David who opens to us the full meaning of the scriptural prophecies and reopens for all mankind the gate of Heaven.


The title “Key of David” occurs in Isaiah. The ancient ceremony of the Queen’s Keys at the Tower of London depends on the same idea; the palace key is a symbol of royal power, just as a sceptre is. In this antiphon, God’s royal power is invoked to come and lead out of prison. It is not morbid to suggest that mankind really does sit in the darkness and in the shadow of death.

Psychologists say that all adult fear is predicated on the fear of death.

How many of us have hang-ups about commitment because we are already fearful of loss? How many of us live trying to hold back time, depressed by aging or by the relentless pace of change?

In a memorable phrase, Pope Benedict XVI says: “Humanity needs eternity, every other hope is too short for it.”

If death overshadows us as something senseless and terrible its shadow must, in some way, render life worthless too, for death is its only certain outcome. There is a terrible emptiness to life, even before death comes knocking if I cannot confront the fact of death with the hope of eternity. “But,” the Pope goes on, “if the value of a man’s life is called eternity, then this value is always his and marks his whole life.”

In the Apocalypse, Jesus says: “I hold the keys of Death and Hades.” He comes with his powerful key, His Cross, to open the fearful door through death which opens us to eternity. He comes to close forever the deepest fear that those we truly love might be taken away from us. He comes to open for us the way to eternity, the key that frees us to love.

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