At Easter, the gates of heaven are flung wide open, never again to be shut! All are invited to set aside whatever separates them from God, and come into this place of peace and light.
Have you ever wondered where the image of the “pearly gates” comes from? It is actually part of the description of the heavenly city in the vision of St. John that became the book of Revelation in the Bible. “And the twelve gates are twelve pearls, each of the gates is a single pearl, and the street of the city is pure gold, transparent as glass.” (Rev. 21:21. If you want to read the whole passage, it’s a fascinating if psychedelic description: Rev 21:10-26)
A few verses later it says that these gates (there are twelve of them, remember) will never by shut by day, and there will be no night there. While I was working on this piece of art, I re-read that passage, and I had an amusing thought. Along with the mental picture of the pearly gates goes an image of Saint Peter, like a cosmic doorman, checking people’s credentials as they stand in line to get in. After all, Jesus gave him the “keys to the Kingdom,” right? (Matt 16:13-19, if you ever wondered where that came from.) I got this funny picture of Peter having the keys to a door that never gets locked. And even if he were to stand outside one of them, there are eleven more that are propped open!
Perhaps it’s time to revise our image, and think of heaven less as an exclusive club with a bouncer at the door to make sure the wrong sort of folks don’t get in, and more like a big and welcoming mansion. All the doors stand open wide so light can stream out onto the lawn, and sounds of music and conversation, as well as delicious smells, are wafting out to invite us in.
Chances are you can think of an experience in your life that you would describe as a glimpse of heaven. I am pretty convinced that the more we are attuned to look for these, the more glimpses through the gate we will get.