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Advent 2013: "O Emmanuel"

Monday, December 23, 2013
O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, exspectatio gentium, et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos Domine Deus noster.

O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Expected of the Nations and their Saviour,
come to save us, O Lord our God.

Today at Vespers we will sing the last of the beautiful “O Antiphons” and the acrostic will be completed; for if we put together backwards the first letter of each of Antiphons - Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia – we can form the words “Ero Cras”, that is, “Tomorrow, I will come”. And tomorrow indeed, at Midnight Mass, we will celebrate that moment when God entered the world as an innocent child, one still night, in the little town of Bethlehem . . . and it changed everything. Nothing would ever be the same again.

This O Antiphon, like each of those that preceded it, both refers to a title of the Messiah and to a prophecy of Isaiah on the coming of the Messiah.

Emmanuel means “God is with us”, and with the birth of the Saviour, this beautiful idea becomes reality in a way beyond compare. Whilst it is true that God has always been with us, the Incarnation radically changed His manner of being “with us.” The most sacred item for the people of the Old Testament was the Ark of the Covenant, but from the moment of the Incarnation, when the Holy Spirit overshadowed the Blessed Virgin Mary (the Ark of the New Covenant) she held within her womb the Word of God in the flesh.

So as we near the end of Advent, the prophecy of Isaiah (7:14) nears its fulfilment:

The maiden is with child
and will soon give birth to a son
whom she will call Emmanuel,
a name which means “God-is-with-us”


What then is the appropriate response to this fact, the entry of God into human history? It should be rejoicing. Let us rejoice in one another, let us rejoice in the fact that each of us is willed and loved by God, and let us rejoice in the proof of this, the sending of His Son to save us. Thus as the preparation and joyful anticipation of Advent reaches its magnificent culmination, let us rejoice and sing with relish once more that great hymn in which all the themes of the O Antiphons are brought together:

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
R: Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, Thou Wisdom, from on high,
and order all things far and nigh;
to us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
who to Thy tribes on Sinai's height
in ancient times did give the law
in cloud and majesty and awe.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse's stem,
from ev'ry foe deliver them
that trust Thy mighty power to save,
and give them vict'ry o'er the grave.

O come, Thou Key of David, come
and open wide our heav'nly home;
make safe the way that leads on high
that we no more have cause to sigh.

O come, Thou Dayspring from on high,
and cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night
and death's dark shadow put to flight.

O come, Desire of the nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid every strife and quarrel cease
and fill the world with heaven's peace.

Toby Lees OP


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