O KEY OF DAVID
AND SCEPTER OF THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL
YOU OPEN AND NO ONE SHUTS
YOU SHUT AND NO ONE OPENS.
DELIVER US FROM THE PRISONS THAT HOLD US
FOR WE ARE SEATED IN DARKNESS
OPPRESSED BY THE SHADOWS
It couldn’t get much darker. The year is about to tip, but we can’t see it yet. It was midnight when I woke and looked out the tall windows beside the bed at the shadows of trees. What is my prison? I wondered as I lay there wide awake. There would be no going back to sleep, not tonight. Tonight I’d be searching for the key to a prison so dark and filled with shadows it sometimes even seems to have no door.
“When is a key a scepter?” my mind inquired. It is a trickster, that mind of mine. “When is a key a You and not an It? the mind rambled on. (And to demonstrate the wonder I am in over all of this, I will tell you that it is now eleven minutes after two in the morning, and gazing into darkness as I’ve spent the time, these are all the words I yet have written.) Memory reminds me that almost fifty years ago I had a dream in which I chased a key down a street, and every time I bent to pick it up it moved on ahead of me as if leading me to something or somewhere else. Eventually I was in a poor section of the city. The key rolled up against a door and stayed. I picked it up and placed it in a lock. Turned it. Opened the door and found myself looking at my Self. “What is the door opened by the key? What is on the other side?”
In both the antiphon and in my youthful dream, “I” do not open the door. The antiphonal key is David. Note the key does not belong to David, it actually IS David. And by association and genealogy the Key is the One we invoke with COME: the same as was represented yesterday by the Sacred Tree, the Endless One with all the emanations. The Holy One in the Fire of Being whose name cannot be spoken except with innumerable adjectives.
The door to the prison is opened by the Key of David. The “David” within our souls, our relationships, our countries, our governments, our world—who/what is he? We need to know that or we won’t have the Key to the mystery of opening and closing. My mind teases me, “Why not call your new friend the Rabbi David? Ask him. He should know.” But my heart counsels me to go to the stories. The biblical stories reveal the qualities of the historical David, and each of those qualities are essential to the Key by which we are released from our prisons. The stories are many. Some of us know all of them, others know a few like the one in which he uses his slingshot to kill a giant. If David is the Key to our release from darkness and death, the stories tell me he is fully human, a paradox of glory and ambiguity.
David held opposites together. He was the child-shepherd/king, mystic poet/warrior, beloved/betrayer. This is the Key that opens the prison door, that tips the darkness towards the light, that unlocks the way through the shadow of death into the fullness of Life: the acceptance of all our contradictions. And the Key is on the inside. To be human is to be a paradox, and to accept that in the deepest night of our souls, of our nations, of our world, a time of death itself, we can, like David did, throw off our prisons like clothes become too small, and accepting what we are—the Light of God in the clay of earth—we can dance before the Tabernacle of the Great I AM.
This is the Key.
O Key of David, Come.