Can you please explain again the significance of a Jubilee Year? What about Jubilee doors?
The Jubilee Year is actually a custom that Christians retained from their Jewish roots. In Leviticus 25-27 and Numbers 36, we can read about the Jewish concept of Jubilee under the law which was meant to reflect a spirit of joy and mercy even in the beginning. The Jubilee custom was also closely linked with the Sabbath. You may recall in Genesis that at God’s request the 7th Day or Sabbath Day was set aside for rest and renewal of the people’s covenant with God. This idea also extended to the assignment of years. Every 7th Year was referred to as a Sabbatical Year where the people were asked to refrain from work. For instance, farmers were not permitted to plant crops on the 7th Year (because even creation was granted this rest) and, instead, they were expected to grow more than needed and store up supplies in silos for that 7th Year. After a 7 of 7s of years (7 x 7 or 49 years), the 50th year was known as the Jubilee Year. This year was extra special as all slaves were to be freed, crimes and debts were pardoned, prisoners were set free, etc. This ordinary Jubilee was kept every 50 years and Christians continued it. Our last ordinary Jubilee was in 2000 and our next will not be until 2050 but Pope Francis, in exercising his papal authority surprised everyone by declaring 2015-2016 as an Extraordinary Jubilee with this focus on mercy.
Then what about Jubilee Doors? How do they fit in and what are they meant to signify? How are they used? How long does the distinction of Jubilee Doors apply? Well, as an officially designated pilgrimage site for the Jubilee Year, our parish church is one of those select buildings with Jubilee Doors. Ours were blessed on Sunday, December 13th at the Pope’s request and they are marked by a yellow and white banner (papal/Vatican colors). It is through these doors that each pilgrim is to pass in order to successfully mark the completion of their pilgrimage. That action along with the practice of: 1) receiving communion, 2) making confession, 3) praying for the intentions of the Pope, and 4) striving to have perfect contrition for your sins (i.e. sorrow for your sins because you love God and not because you fear punishment) are the basic requirements for receiving a plenary or partial indulgence, which is a pardoning/healing from the temporal punishment due to sin. In short, these indulgences are among the most powerful blessings/graces of mercy that the Church can bestow. You are all encouraged to pass through those Jubilee Doors as often as you are able over the course of this Year of Mercy and truly experience God’s blessing. If you are unable to participate in confession or communion at this time due to personal circumstances, do what parts you can. God’s mercy is for you too and for anyone who seeks conversion and contrition for their sins. Have a blessed Year of Mercy!