O Emmanuel, ransom your people who mourn in exile!
The final O Antiphon is the crown jewel amongst the Seven Antiphons. It is inspired by the central Isaiah prophecy of the Messiah: ‘The Lord himself will give you this sign: the Virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel’ (7:14), meaning “God-with-us.” The virgin birth points directly to the divine nature of Jesus. The “sign” Isaiah wrote of was unlike any other signs given to the People by the God of Israel. We are accustomed to it, but it is the main work of salvation God designed for us in Christ.
Therefore, whenever we see the Madonna and Child depicted in art or in our mind’s eye during meditation, we should be thrilled that this has happened. God chose a woman and called her to be a mother, and this is the pivotal moment of universal salvation. Mothers everywhere, rejoice! God has specifically chosen this way to come to Humanity, to become one of us in this most natural of ways, showing just how much He desired to be God-with-us, Emmanuel. Why is Christmas such a feast of joy? Because of this reality of the taking of flesh through Mary, we call the Incarnation.
The O Antiphons, taken together, represent a compendium of rejoicing in the many names of the Lord made man.
“According to Professor Robert Greenberg of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Benedictine monks arranged these antiphons with a definite purpose. If one starts with the last title and takes the first letter of each one Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix,Adonai, Sapientia the Latin words ero cras are formed, meaning, Tomorrow, I will come (http://www.catholiceducation.org/).
I love the immediacy of these words. Tomorrow! Really, that soon? And yet, we all talk about how fast time goes by. If the Lord is coming tomorrow, the O Antiphons not only bring intensity to our Advent preparation, but to life itself, urging us to open our hearts to God’s love and let it transform us.
May Christmas morn find you rejoicing, listening to the choirs sing praise and singing them yourself. Peace and blessings of the season to you and yours.
Copyright 2014 by Julie Paavola