“Be lifted up, O ancient doors!”—these words of the psalm are not only liturgical symbolism, the gate of liturgy of a long-past age. They are the cry of a man in a world that is far too narrow, even if he can travel in spaceships to the moon and beyond. Christmas is only the first half of the Christian answer to this cry. Christmas tells us that there is not only the tyrant, Death: there is God, who is Life, and this God can and will reach us; he has broken a way in to us. He has found the door that was big enough for him, or rather, he has made such a door for himself. But this answer is complete only if there is not just an entrance by which God can reach us but also an exit for us. It is only satisfying if death is no longer a prison from which no one returns. And this is the content of the message of Easter. Not only is there a door in, there is also a door out. Death is no longer the house with no exits, a place of no return.
The ancient Church saw in this verse an interpretation of the article of faith “descended into hell”, referring particularly to Holy Saturday, not as a word of mourning, but as a word of victory. The Church expressed this word in poetic form: the bolts of death’s dungeon, of the world’s dungeon, are wrenched off; the ramparts are thrown down; the gates are torn from their hinges. The one who has done this, Jesus, takes the long-imprisoned Adam and Eve—that is, humanity—by the hand and leads them to freedom. Life if not a waiting room leading to the void but the beginning of eternity. The world is not the universal concentration camp but the garden of hope. Life is not the futile search for meaning, mirrored in the tangle of bureaucracy. God is not a bureaucrat; he does not live in a distant castle nor does he hide himself behind impenetrable anterooms. The door is open; it is called Jesus Christ.
The celebration of Easter is intended to show us the radiant light that streams from this door. It challenges us steadfastly to follow this radiance, which is no will-‘o-the-wisp but the brilliance of saving truth.
Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) Seek That Which Is Above