On December 8, 2015 Pope Francis pushed open the great bronze doors of St. Peter’s Basilica to commence his Holy Year of Mercy.
Francis stood in prayer on the threshold of the basilica’s Holy Door, then walked through followed by the 88-year old Benedict with the help of an assistant. They were “the first of an estimated 10 million who will pass through over the course of the next year in a rite of pilgrimage dating back centuries. …
“The Vatican’s Holy Door, located to the right of the basilica’s main entrance, is decorated with 16 bronze panels depicting the redemption of man’s sin through mercy. Passing through it is meant to symbolize the pilgrimage of life’s journey and the sacrifices endured.
“Holy years are generally celebrated every 25–50 years, and over the centuries they have been used to encourage the faithful to make pilgrimages to Rome to obtain an “indulgence”—the ancient church tradition related to the forgiveness of sins that roughly amounts to a “get out of Purgatory free” card.
“Unlike in Martin Luther’s time, these Holy Year indulgences are free and available to those who pass through the Holy Door.” The Arkansas Democrat Gazette, December 9, 2015.
To keep a low key during this Holy Year, the pope has instructed all cathedrals world-wide to open their Holy Doors to encourage the pilgrims to mark the jubilee at home rather than have to travel to Rome.
“We come to God by special invitation, and He waits to welcome us to His audience chamber. The first disciples who followed Jesus were not satisfied with a hurried conversation with Him by the way; they said, ‘Rabbi, … where dwellest Thou? … they came and saw where He dwelt and abode with Him that day’ (John 1:38, 39). So we may be admitted into closest intimacy and communion with God. … Let those who desire the blessing of God knock and wait at the door of mercy with firm assurance, saying, For Thou, O Lord, hast said, ‘Everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 131.
“He answered and said to them, ‘Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” ’ ” Mark 7:6, 7.