“The Doors! The Doors! In wisdom let us attend!” (Exclamation before the Nicene Creed, Divine Liturgy)
The deacon or priest shouts the above exclamation that once was a signal to the doorkeepers to make certain that all who were not admitted to the Holy Communion—actually to learn the Creed—would be sent away. Prayers for them had been chanted if they were catechumens; that is, they had been preparing for baptism or perhaps were admonished for some reason and were admitted only to hear the Liturgy of the Word that already had taken place. Normally we no longer request anybody to leave even if they are not Orthodox Christians, but we do expect them to heed the admonition that follows: Pay attention, what follows requires reflection, contemplation and deep thought. The words that follow are significant for our salvation.
Even before focusing on the Creed and Anaphora, what about the very doors themselves? One inquirer asked about doors open or closed. Why have them inside the Church? Many free-spirited Americans resent being shut out of anything. They dislike restrictions and vote themselves eligible to entry regardless of the rules of the management. My reply—we shut the doors in order to open them. How better to express our welcome to the sacred gifts on the altar table for those who have properly prepared themselves to receive Christ Himself in the form of bread and wine transformed into His very Body and Blood. And this requires wisdom and attention. Something awesome is about to take place. Whatever else the choir sings or the dialogue that passes from the altar to the choir through the gathered people of God demands prior preparation and present attention. In a way, the closed Royal Gates and the drawn curtain are like the 19th century formal Victorian homes where the family and guests are waiting in the outer room until called by butler or maid to enter the dining room for the meal.
Actually there are three sets of doors:
A. The entrance doors into the temple that shut off the sacred from the profane. The Church is the place on earth where the Kingdom of heaven is made manifest. A building unlike all others in the community, it has been blessed with holy water and sanctified by prayers to serve, until Jesus Christ’s return, for the community of the saved, a place whereby are offered “Holy things for the holy,” shutting out all that has a purpose other than to be with the saints past and present. Those doors are both entry and warning. Enter you who are serious about discovering who you really are, the ingredients of your personality are being shown to you by the Creator.
B. Once within the outer doors, you see a second set of doors ahead. They are closed to you while you look around and adjust your eyes to what is inside. Above, Jesus our Lord and Savior reaching out to invite you to Himself — “You that are heavy laden, take My yoke upon you…” but if you have no burdens or didn’t really think about it, look around and you will see scenes from the Bible of life, symbolized by water, and death, also water, or perhaps Transfiguration, the ultimate and exquisite possibility before Dormition, your own death. Does it move you to consider yourself—who you are, what you are, and where you are going on the journey through life? If so, then you may be ready to go through the second set of doors and behold what lies beyond.
C. The third pair of doors, Royal Gates as they are called, has been explained above. Yet none of these three sets are equal to the ultimate doors invisible from our earth-bound perspective, the barrier between life as we know it and death, the unknown. That is the passage for which all the other doors closed and open in our lifetime are mere preparation.