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Reflections on the “O Antiphons” Advent Week Four

Deborah Stollery

As we move now into the final days of preparing to remember the first coming of Jesus while continuing to enjoy the mystery of God-with-us now, I’d like to invite you to join me in continuing to reflect on the “O Antiphons” in light of our current times.  The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops describes these texts this way: “They are the antiphons that accompany the Magnificat canticle of Evening Prayer from December 17-23.  They are a magnificent theology that uses ancient biblical imagery drawn from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming Christ as the fulfillment not only of Old Testament hopes, but present ones as well.  Their repeated use of the imperative “Come!” embodies the longing of all for the Divine Messiah.”[i]  These pick up on December 20th.

December 20   O Key of David, opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom:  come and free the prisoners of darkness!

In the United States, 2020 has been a year of racial reckoning.  We are coming to understand our nation as a country founded on the backs of slaves, human beings characterized by early law as only 3/5 human.  If that were not bad enough, we are now seeing how that view of Black People has translated into systems and structures designed to keep them imprisoned in this land that proclaims “liberty and justice for all.”  And for many of us who are White, these truths are freeing us from the prison of ignorance and willful indifference.  But there are so many who need freed.  Come, Lord Jesus and free the prisoners of this darkness! 

December 21   O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:  come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.

A global pandemic in which the United States leads the world in infections and death, a global pandemic that has not ended at this writing but rather continues to explode across our world, a global pandemic that has illumined the disproportionate rates of infection and death among people of color, a global pandemic that has darkened theaters, stadiums, restaurants, businesses, airports and homes…into this darkness we beg for a Radiant Dawn, for the sun of justice, for the One who walks with us in the valley of the shadow of death.  Come, Lord Jesus and bring your Light of hope and healing.

December 22   O King of all nations and keystone of the Church: come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!

Our Church in this country continues to reel from the discoveries of abuse abetted by a malignant clerical culture.  We see how far so many have wandered from You, O keystone of the Church.  We see that You have been rejected by the very people You entrusted to be Your modern-day apostles.  We rage, we ache, we lament, we yearn, and we dare to hope that once again, You will come and save us from the ashes of sin.  Come, Lord Jesus!

December 23   O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law:  come to save us, Lord our God!

We have placed so many things as gods in our lives:  pride, power, possessions and position.  We are proud of our rugged individualism, our self-sufficiency, our intellectual prowess and modern sensibilities.  We believe ourselves already righteous…exceptional.  In so doing, we have forgotten that you are with us, that you see what we have done in rejecting your Kingship and your authority to give us a new law.  Come, Lord Jesus and save us from the abyss these choices create.  Come, Lord Jesus, and save us from ourselves so that we might live as your Beloved Children now and forever.

Dana and I wish for each of you a fresh in-breaking of Emmanuel in this holy season.  We will be taking the next two weeks off to remember the Lord’s first coming in the flesh and to seek moments of His Presence in mystery and wonder now, even as we wait in joyful hope for Him to come again in glory.

Merry Christmas!

[i] https://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers-and-devotions/prayers/the-o-antiphons-of-advent   Accessed 12/12/2020

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