December 23: O Emmanuel (God With Us)

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Courtesy of the Naked Pastor

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster,
exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster

O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
the hope of the nations and their Saviour:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.

The word Emmanuel, like the second Antiphon Adonai is not of Latin origin, but Hebrew. Emmanu-el…..literally “God with us” points to the central mystery of Christmas….the Incarnation

What I like about the illustration above is the fact that the cartoonist has an arrow pointing towards manure. The mystery of how and why God comes to us in the Flesh–to me–is found in the symbolism of that dung pile.

Our God is a messy God. Who literally arrives knee-deep in shit and mud, and a smelly stable….all so that he can be with us…..to be with his Beloved.

The crap that he encounters in life does not go away. Like all of us, he gets tired, he gets hungry, he feels pain, and yes….even tastes the isolation and pain of death.

The arrival of the baby in Bethlehem is not something that is serene and calm…..Instead, it is loud, in your face, real world encounter.

As we prepare for the celebration of Christmas tomorrow….may we be reminded that our faith requires us to get dirty…..to encounter people where they are…..and that we take to heart the implications of a God who is not far off….but close at hand…..close enough to touch.

Lord Jesus, come soon! Come and be born in our hearts! +

December 22nd: O Rex Gentium (King of the Nations)

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O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,
quem de limo formasti.

O King of the nations, and their desire,
the cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
which you fashioned from clay.

Out of all the titles for Jesus, I think this one–for me–is probably the hardest to grapple with. It’s not because I think it untrue, but because I see a world filled with many different leaders, and torn apart by their differences. Unity under a single king requires that all people (or at least a vast majority) assent to his rule.

Can Jesus really breach that gap???

I suppose at the heart of that question…. a leap of faith is involved. If Christ taught us anything, it’s that he came to bring reconciliation between humanity and God…..

By holding on to that truth…..Jesus becomes our king……nothing else matters…..the most important relationship in our lives–between us and our Maker–is healed. Anything that stands beyond that is purely secondary.

by holding on to that truth, we realize that the Grace and Forgiveness we have received for ourselves is a gift…….and that evangelism is not so much a desire to convince someone that Jesus is Lord, but a desire to share what we have been given with others.

Christ is not a king who demands taxes and labour….only that we bring ourselves, so that we may know the peace which passes all understanding. In possessing that peace, we are able to look on our fellow human beings not as competitors with hidden agendas, but people who are just as flawed and broken as us, looking to be made whole.

And so…..we look for that King now….and knowing that in serving Him…..our viewpoint is forever changed. Alleluia!

Lord Jesus, come soon! Come and be born in our hearts! +

December 21st: O Oriens (Morning Star)

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O Oriens,
splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae:
veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Morning Star,
splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

As I lit the Advent candles tonight……I realized that the brightest one…..the one that dispels the darkness completely, is not yet lit.

During the Advent season, we place so much emphasis on preparing, repenting, rejoicing, and expecting that we tend to forget about the big white candle in the middle.

When God burst through the barrier to become human like us, it was to give Light to those who are lost….not to those who already had lamps. Jesus himself said that he came to heal the sick in body, mind or soul….not to attend to those who already were healed.

Just because we are in the last week of this holy season, it doesn’t mean the wreath gets put away at Christmas….rather the four lights that mark our expectation help to point towards our centre…Jesus Christ….who makes us as white as snow and brings us out of darkness into the bright dawn of Day.

Lord Jesus, come soon! Come and be born in our hearts! +

O Clavis David (Key of David)

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O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel;
qui aperis, et nemo claudit;
claudis, et nemo aperit:
veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;
you open and no one can shut;
you shut and no one can open:
Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,
those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

Whenever I hear this language of doors being irrevocably shut….I always think of the Royal Doors which are used in Eastern Orthodox liturgy.

After the Liturgy of the Word is celebrated and the Nicene Creed is recited, the Deacon shouts “the doors! The doors!” at which point all the entrances and exits to the Church were locked and the cathecumenate (ie. those who were unbaptized) were escorted out of the worship space for instruction. Only the baptized can receive the Body and Blood of Christ, and the locking of the doors suggests that those who are outside have missed their chance to come in and experience Christ.

We shouldn’t necessarily be surprised by this.

As much as we conceptualize Jesus as all-loving and all-accepting, the language of exclusion is not foreign to the Gospel accounts…..remember the parable of the wedding feast??? that guy is subject to weeping and gnashing of teeth. Similarly, plants that do not bear good fruit gets tossed into the fire… . Eek! :S

But there is good news! The doors are not always shut….but rather, they are thrust open week after week, month after month, day after day, inviting people in. We are given the power of our own voice and testimony as we serve those outside the church walls….ensuring that they have an invitation to the banquet of Eternal Life…..and offering them the wedding robe of baptism to ensure that they are not left in sadness or despair.

While God is all-powerful and just, he is also merciful….always willing to extend Grace to the world, and opening the door to all who knock. Lord Jesus, come soon! Come and be born in our hearts!

December 19th: O Radix Jesse (Branch of Jesse)

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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 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.

Are these antiphons starting to sound familiar??? That’s because they probably should 😉

That’s right, this popular hymn from the 19th century is based on the O antiphons 🙂

Tonight we reflect on God’s promise to David that his line will never die……and that the Son of God also shares his heritage with the sons of man. With Mary’s yes, our Lord unites himself forever to humanity. Like the song says, the Root of Jesse comes to free us not only from our enemies…but from the very Devil that tries to ensnare us.

Satan–properly understood– is not the man with a pointy beard, horns and a pitchfork…..but rather the adversary who tempts us, and slowly bends our own wills to do what WE want to do rather than what our Father wishes for us.

In our weakness, we sometimes choose the way that gives us instant gratification…the impulse that allows us to prosper at the expense of others. The Branch of Jesse comes to free us from that bias….and opens to us a new way of salvation.

The babe born in the manger does not stay that way….he grows, he teaches, and becomes the Lamb of God bloodied on a Cross….to rise again and to break the bonds of death. Christus Victor! Lord Jesus, come soon! Come and be born in our hearts. +

December 18th: O Adonai (Lord)

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O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel,
qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O Lord, and leader of the House of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and gave him the law on Sinai:
Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm

In addition to giving us Wisdom and the Law YHWH adopts for himself a covenant people. In his choosing of Israel as the great nation, the Lord of heaven and earth declared one simple fact: He is unequivocally on the side of the oppressed.

When push literally comes to shove, the strong hand of Pharaoh is useless against plagues and famine. When it seems as though Babylon will contain the Hebrew people for good, thier Lord raises up a foreign king to free them. Just as it seems that the corruption of Rome has rotted holiness to its core, a little baby shows up in a manger.

The promise of Christ is not one that promises meek and mild….but strong and transformative power that will fundamentally change the way we live, and move and have our being.

Lord Jesus come soon! Come and be born in our hearts! +

A Brief History of the O Antiphons…..

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Today (Dec. 17th) marks one week until the Feast of Our Lord’s Nativity and the celebration of God’s coming among us. One of the traditional ways in which the Church prepares itself for this miraculous event is to recite the O Antiphons one by one in the lead-up to Christmas.

Usually attached to the Magnificat during Vespers (or in my case, Evening Prayer), the antiphons–which is a fancy word for “response”–helps the faithful to remember the promises of God made in the Old Testament…promises which are revealed to be eternal and kept faithfully by God through the sending of his Son into the world.

Each response recited invokes a different title and role of the Son who saves us….not only looking forward to the hope of Incarnation and advent…but in looking back through salvation’s history to see the loving face of our Father.

Since my schedule is busy this upcoming week and I don’t know how often I will get to post my thoughts on the Daily Office readings, I have decided at the very least to offer a short reflection on the O Antiphon appointed for each day :). I hope you enjoy, and that it offers some light to your path as we move ever-closer to threshold of the manger. +

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