O clavis David


O Key of David, 
and Scepter of the House of Israel;
who openest, and no man shutteth;
who shuttest, and no man openeth:
come and lead the captive from the prison-house,
and him that sitteth in darkness and in the shadow of death.

I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open.
     Is 22.22

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: These are the words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens...
      Rv 3.7

The scepter shall not be taken away from Judah, nor a ruler from his thigh, til he come that is to be sent, and he shall be the expectation of nations.
     Gn 49.10

I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.
     Is 42.6b–7

The image of the key originates in Isaiah, in which the key of the house (palace) of David is given to Eliakim, who became palace master in the kingdom of Judah just before its fall to Assyria and thus controlled who did and did not have access to the king. This image has certainly underlain the traditional interpretation of Our Lord’s giving of the ‘keys of the kingdom of heaven’ to St Peter: that the Church, or even more specifically the holders of the sacramental priesthood, have the power to bind and loose, to forgive sins, to allow or deny access to Christ. We might put this more positively and say that we, the Church, have the responsibility to point the way and give access to Christ, who Himself is the ‘gate’ and ‘door’ [Jn 10.9] (as well as affirming that forgiveness or its withholding is a very powerful thing that we all wield over others as well as ourselves). Ultimately the Revelation to St John tells us that Christ Himself is the keeper of the key that opens the gates of death’s prison [cf. Is 9.2, Mt 4.16, Ps 107.14, etc.]. We might also think of Christ ‘opening the Scriptures’ and ‘opening the eyes’ of the disciples on the road to, and at supper at, Emmaus after His resurrection.