The final O Antiphon before Christmas is the familiar call of O Emmanuel. No translation is needed today, no Latin to understand. We comprehend now that the meaning is,”God with us.”
God is with us, what a powerful gift, what immense love – our God who comes to be with us, to love us, save us, and free us from all. A God who comes as a tiny infant, foretold by the prophet Isaiah. He was born in a lowly spot in terrible circumstances, yet the savior of all. A God who comes down to not only be with us, but to be one of us and to set us free.
O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster,
expectratio gentium, et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos,
Domines, Deus noster.
O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver,
desire of the nations, Savior of all people:
Come and set us free, Lord our God.
Our O Antiphon for today is O Rex Gentium, or O, King of All The Nations! Jesus the Christ leads us all, he is our Lord and King!
The word king can draw up many images, but they all relate to one thing – power. The king is the ruler, above all, the one with the most power. The question becomes, how has the power been used? Human kings and other leaders can often misunderstand or misuse their power. Jesus comes to us as a vulnerable infant, with God’s glory and power confidently in him, expressed through mercy, compassion, and love. Jesus is a different kind of king, the kingdom of God is a different kind of kingdom.
The inbreaking of the Spirit through the birth of Christ will usher in this new kingdom. Are we ready to be subjects of this new king, the one who rules all with love? The antiphon says it so beautifully, “the only joy of every heart.”
O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,
quem de limo formasti.
O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart;
O Keystone of the mighty arch of man:
Our antiphon for today is O Oriens, or O Radiant Dawn, sometimes referred to as. As our days grow dark and short, we await the light, the dawn. On Christmas, the dawn will break with the Light of Christ, the day that we longed for, the day that we hoped in. As people who have walked in darkness, we will now walk in light, the Light of Christ!
O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae,
et sol justitiae:
veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris,
et umbra mortis.
O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death.
Each day draws us closer to the Dawn, the birth of Christ, and our O Antiphons guide us there in prayer and chant. Today’s antiphon is O Clavis David, O Key of David. Yesterday we prayed about the Root of Jesse, from which David came. Jesus is also of this lineage, as was foretold. Jesus is the Key of David, his birth heralds the opening of the doors of the Kingdom, setting us free, leading us to light, to God!
O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel,
qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperuit:
veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.
O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel,
controlling at your will the gate of heaven:
Come, break down the prison walls of death
for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death;
and lead your captive people into freedom.
Today’s O Antiphon is O Radix Jesse, or Root of Jesse. Remember that King David was chosen, from the root of Jesse. In 1 Samuel 16:11, Samuel sees Jesse’s sons, and knows that none of them are the one whom God seeks. He then asks if there are any others, and David was brought forth – and immediately chosen by God. He was the unlikely one – as is The Christ. Think about unlikely so many things are in your life, and then consider all of that against these things. All things are truly possible with God.
O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.
O Flower of Jesse’s stem,
you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples;
kings stand silent in your presence;
the nations bow down in worship before you.
Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.
Today’s O Antiphon is O Adonai. Two years ago I learned something very interesting about this particular name for God, Adonai. Apparently it has a meaning that translates to “bread keeper.” When we think of the Eucharist, this name has a powerful meaning! I am struck by the image of Moses before the burning bush that this antiphon presents us with. It is an encounter that changes everything, one that will change the world. So it is with our encounter with Christ, who is going to show himself, stretching out his might arm to save and to love.
O Adonai, et dux domus Israel, qui Moyse in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.
O Sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: Come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.
(Please note that in these days leading to Christmas there may be
multiple posts for each day, reflections and posts for the O Antiphons.)
In the seven days leading up to Christmas Eve, as a church we pray the O Antiphons. Part of the Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the Divine Office, they are sung immediately preceding the Magnificat at Vespers each day. To pray the O Antiphons, whether in a communal setting, or on your own, is to partake in an ancient and beautiful prayerful chants that call out for the coming of the Christ child. We are still in Advent, true, but our journey to the birth of Christ edges closer and closer.
The O Antiphons are each named with the prophecy of Isaiah as a backdrop and each one calls out a name for the messiah, beginning with today’s antiphon, O Sapientia, or O Wisdom!
O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem fortiter, suaviter disponensque omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.
O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care: Come and show your people the way to salvation.
- O King of the nations, and their desire,
- the cornerstone making both one:
- Come and save the human race,
- which you fashioned from clay.
Yesterday I had a moment of spontaneous prayer-writing as I prepared the O Clavis David post. The words that came to me were:
We await the dawn, the coming of the Son of Justice, opening the door to lead us out of darkness and into the light!
Today we have the O Antiphon in which that door opens – O Oriens! Or O Rising Sun! This is why I always stand in awe of how the Holy Spirit works. While it was not my intention to connect one day to the next in quite that way, as usual, God has other plans. Better ones than we have.
O Radix Jesse
O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.
About four years ago I read a book about liturgy and worship, I believe that it was by Nathan Mitchell. I can’t find the book right now, so that’s as accurate as I can get at the moment.
Mitchell was talking about the communal nature of liturgy and of how networks arise. Trust me – it made sense in the book, which I hope to get my hands on and quote more directly. He wrote about the roots of rhizomes, which unlike tree roots, that go deep, reach out to connect to one another. While I have thought of this many times over the years, I never thought of it in relationship to this O Antiphon until today. Continue reading