O Antiphons ~ Emmanuel

December 23, 2021

O Emmanuel, you are our king and judge, the one whom the peoples await and their Savior. O come and save us, Lord, our God.

Two days before Christmas, in this Advent season of waiting and longing, the seventh, and final, name for the Christ (or Light, or Love, if you prefer) proclaimed in the ancient prayer-song of the O Antiphons is found in Isaiah 7:14:   Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son and his name shall be called Emmanuel.

Emmanuel:  “God with us.”  Of the four stories of the Christ, the good news of the gospels, Matthew and Luke are the two evangelists that include the birth story, and their telling is quite different from each other.  In Matthew’s narrative, “God with us” comes in the midst of a Roman occupation with an unwanted male infant that King Herod tries to kill and so must be hidden.  “God with us” occurs in dreams that lead Joseph to take his family to Egypt and wisemen to disobey Herod’s orders and “go another way.”  Jesus, the Christ, becomes “God with us” as the new Moses who will lead God’s people not out of Egypt but out of themselves and into the Light.

For Luke, “God with us” appears to the least likely—to an old woman and a teenaged girl, second class citizens, and to shepherds, third class citizens, made unclean by Jewish standards because of their care of dirty animals.  “God with us” is the one who walks among the least of us, the poor and powerless, and surprises the faithful and long-waiting, Simeon and Anna.  “God with us” meets us exactly where we are, as we are, with love and compassion, mercy and longing.  “God with us” means we are never again alone.

Prayer:  O Emmanuel, as the day of your birth draws close, help us to be still enough to receive you.  Whenever we see a candle burn, a light on a tree sparkle, outside decorations glow, let us take those sights as reminders of your Light and Love upon us and upon everyone.  Guide us out of ourselves and toward you, and help us to be Light-bearers to those who live in darkness, those who need to know both peace and joy. You are with us and within us, and so we can rejoice, even now.  May it be so.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

If you would like to listen to this prayer-song, here is a link to the artist Lauren Daigle’s version:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGw0QK6ICZA.

Blessings of joy and peace to you.  ~  Rosemary

Photo credit Pixabay

O Antiphons ~  King of Nations

December 22, 2021

O King of Nations, whom all the peoples desire, you are the cornerstone which makes all one. O come and deliver the creature you fashioned from the dust of the earth.

Three days before the birth of the Light, in the O Antiphons, the ancient prayer-song of waiting and expectation, the sixth title given to the Christ (or Light, or Love, if you prefer) is King of Nations, based on the prophecy found in Isaiah 2:4: He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Here is the title for Christ/Light/Love with which I most struggle because Jesus, whoever we believe him to be, never asked to be a king.  Born in humble surroundings to a teenaged blue collar girl in the midst of an occupied country, Jesus demonstrated that same humbleness his entire life.  Whenever people expected him to be king, to wage war, to conquer the Romans, to lift up sword, he did exactly the opposite.  Whenever people wanted to name him king, he always pointed above to God, never to himself.  Because he would not succumb to the lure and power of being an earthly king, he was crucified.

As I ponder the kingship of Jesus this Advent, I realize that Christians worldwide, often including myself, have taken the easier road of putting Jesus on a throne and worshiping him as king rather than accepting his invitation to follow him in servanthood and humility as a disciple.  If we did indeed truly follow King Jesus, then his kingdom would indeed be coming about: 

6 The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
7 The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
8 The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
9 They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 9: 6-11)

Prayer:  O King of Nations, as we long for your coming, for your light and your love, help us to realize that we are the ones you have invited to make your kingdom a reality.  So many of us still expect you to be a king who invades this world to “sets things right” as we passively watch, and yet that is not what you proclaimed.  If you are truly born in our hearts, then we will follow you—not just worship you–in creating a world where there is no hurt, destruction, war, or injustice.  Help us to understand the true nature of your servant-kingship and to accept your invitation to follow.  May it be so.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Blessings to you ~ Rosemary 20rosepoet20@gmail.com

O Antiphons ~ Key of David

December 20, 2021

O Key of David and scepter of Israel, what you open no one else can close again; what you close no one can open. O come to lead the captives from prison; free those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Five days before the birth of the Light, in the O Antiphons, the ancient prayer-song of waiting and expectation, the fourth title given to the Christ (or Light, or Love, if you prefer) is Key of David, as described in Isaiah 22:22:  I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open. 

What do keys do?  They open doors.  And, they lock doors.  Keys are symbolic of power and ownership.  To have a key to something is to have the authority to access it.  To own a key enables us, both literally and figuratively, to let someone in or keep someone out.

In this season of longing, I acknowledge the feelings (captives) I have locked in my heart–former wounds, fresh hurts, old records, new disappointments– that might be preventing me from unlocking the door to Love and Light and to others, and I lift them like rising candle smoke. Some have languished in that dark prison a long time; others are just arriving. Keys are powerful. How we use them matters. On my own, I cannot turn the key to release them, but I can lift my desire for Grace to do so.

Prayer: O Key of David, the promise you carry is that you will unlock the doors that hold our captives in darkness, that you will set them free, and so set us free. We pray for all those who hold keys to power and privilege to turn toward your Light and hand you their keys. We pray for ourselves, as well, knowing those captives that need to be let out of the darkness and into your Light. O come, O come, and empower us to trust you with our keys. May it be so.

O come, Thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heav’nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

Blessings to you ~ Rosemary 20rosepoet20@gmail.com

Picture credit Pixabay

O Antiphons ~ Adonai

December 18, 2021

O Adonai and leader of Israel, you appeared to Moses in a burning bush and you gave him the law on Mount Sinai. O come and stretch out your mighty hand to redeem us.

In the O Antiphons, the ancient song of waiting and expectation, the second title given to the Christ (or Light, or Love, if you prefer) is Adonai, the Hebrew word for Lord.  “Lord” is not a title Americans are used to or even really appreciate because it sets someone higher than us, or apart from us, in this land of mythical equality.  We don’t want to be beholden to a lord. Yet its meaning here holds much relevance for us today because we are in dire need of “someone higher than us,” any of us, to redeem us.  Now.

Pandemic.  Inflation.  Division.  Anger.  Fear.  Tornado.  Fire.  Destruction.  Name it, and we are walking in the midst of it.  This winter season of waiting is a time for us to acknowledge our human need for redemption from all the noise and turmoil around us and within us that threatens to drown us, a need so great that no president or priest can save us.  We need THE Lord.

This antiphon is based on the story of Moses and the burning bush in the Old Testament.  If we listen closely, we notice that the Lord did not come down and lead the people out of slavery, but the Lord indeed knew who would.  Moses himself tried to squirm and shirk his way out of that calling even while the Lord was empowering Moses to do what needed to be done.  And so God’s people were set free because of love, the love of the Lord and Moses’ love of the Lord and the Lord’s people.

I wonder this Advent where the Lord wants me to go, who the Lord wants me to assist, how the Lord wants to use me in setting others free.  Yes, we need the mighty arm of Love to redeem us, and we are also invited to be willing vessels of that Love.

Prayer:  In this long season of continuing darkness, pandemic, suspicion, division, fear, doubt, and anger, we call on you, O Adonai, to claim us and protect us.  You have promised never to leave us alone, and you have called us to be your presence in this oft-broken world.  Just as you empowered Moses to heed your call, so give us the eyes to see and the courage to go into the dark places where your Light most needs to shine.  You are Love and love overcomes all fear (1 John 4:18). Grant us in this season of gift-giving the gift of love and then embolden us to practice it.

O Come, O Come, Thou Lord of might

who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height

in ancient times didst give the law,

in cloud, and majesty, and awe. 

Blessings to you ~ Rosemary    20rosepoet20@gmail.com 

O Antiphons ~ Wisdom

December 17, 2021

(Pixabay image)

O Wisdom, you come forth from the mouth of the Most High. You create the universe and hold all things together with strength and sweetness. O come to teach us the way of truth.

Many of us are familiar with the Advent hymn, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, but not as many of us are familiar with the O Antiphons, on which this hymn from 1861 was based.  The O Antiphons originated in the Roman Catholic Church sometime between the 6th and 8th centuries as a prelude to Christmas Eve.  They are the containers of ancient praise, as relevant now as they were then.  Each of the seven antiphons (short refrains) that are used as names for the Christ (or Light, or Love, as you prefer) are sung on the nights between Dec. 17 and Dec. 23 at a service called Vespers.  They are matched with their relevant scripture verses and include the following names:   O Wisdom, O Lord, O Root of Jesse, O Key of David, O Rising Sun, O King of the Nations, O Emmanuel. 

Today, the first antiphon is O Wisdom, taken from this scripture verse from the Old Testament of the Bible:  The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.   His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.  He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear. (Isaiah 11:2-3) 

Prayer:  In this long season of continuing darkness, pandemic, suspicion, division, fear, doubt, and anger, we seek Wisdom and the way of Truth.  O Wisdom, build in us a desire for you and open our hearts to receive you.  Quiet us enough to seek your counsel before we respond or act.  Help us to stay rooted in you instead of rooting ourselves in the many opinions of this world.  Inspire us to listen not only with our minds but even more so with our hearts.  Grant us in this season of gift-giving the gift of Wisdom and then embolden us to practice it. May it be so.

“Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel, shall come to thee, O Israel.”

Blessings to you ~ Rosemary    20rosepoet20@gmail.com