Doorways: Thresholds to the Divine
Have you ever stopped to think about every single door you open, close, and pass through in any given day?
Take a moment to think about that.
In Jewish and Christian visual art and religious ritual, the doorway is a central symbol, a connection to God’s goodness and saving power. In Judaism, the Exodus and the mezuzah are two such doorways.
In the story of the Exodus, Moses, at the edge of the Red Sea, raises his staff to separate the waters, creating a doorway that allows the Israelites to escape the Egyptians and pass through the Red Sea to freedom.
The mezuzah is a piece of parchment upon which is written the Shema, the Torah verse “Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is One” (Deut. 6:4–9). This parchment is contained in a decorative case affixed to the front doorframe (and sometimes inner doorways) of a Jewish home. Every time family members, relatives, and visitors pass through a doorway with a mezuzah, they touch it, kiss their fingers as a sign of love and respect, and remember to keep God’s word in heart and mind.
In Christianity, the mandorla (Italian: almond) is a symbol for the doorway to Christ. This shape is known in geometry as the vesica piscis—the almond-shaped space at the intersection of two overlapping and equal circles. It’s a familiar symbol. In paintings, the cloud of glory surrounding a saint (the aureole) is based on the vesica piscis. You’ve also seen this ancient Christian symbol affixed to the trunk or back fender of a car—it’s the “Jesus fish.”
The mandorla is a powerful symbol. Early Christians used it to picture the coming together of opposites such as heaven and earth, divine and human, life and death, with Jesus at its center. It was used to frame sacred moments of his life that transcend time and space, such as his Transfiguration and Resurrection.
What can the mandorla mean for us today? To step into the mandorla is to move beyond either-or thinking and stand in the tension of opposites long enough for something new to emerge. Doors of possibility, discovery, and creativity are opened.
The mandorla stands as a signpost for us on the path of walking between opposites. It’s a reminder that we are also called to be at that same intersection, to partake in the nature of heaven and earth, “to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.” (Roman Missal, The Liturgy of the Eucharist).
Behold, I have left an open door before you, which no one can close. (Rev. 3:8)
May each doorway through which you pass be a reminder of the Divine’s goodness, saving power, and presence in your life. ~ML