18 December 2005

O Adonai

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 red fire of flame and gave him the law on Sinai: Come and redeem us with outstretched arm.

This antiphon refers to two accounts, in the book of Exodus, where God reveals Himself to Moses. The second encounter, when God gave the Law to Moses, is a very poignant encounter. The old covenant is ratified and the exchange between God and man is filled with imagery of fire and light. The fire which the Israelites saw atop the mountain was but an indication of the light that was to come in Christ. The second part of the antiphon, "come and redeem us with outstretched arm," is an echo of Yahweh's promise to Moses that "I will free you from the burdens which the Egyptians lay on you. I will release you from slavery to them, and with my arm outstretched and my strokes of power I will deliver you" (Ex 6:6). The promise made to the people of Israel in the Old Testament is seen in its fullness when it is considered in light of Christ's redemptive death. As the people of Israel awaited freedom from their captors, so the Church awaits the birth of the Messiah.

The promise to be freed from one's captor may seem somewhat irrelevant in a society such as ours where "freedom" is hailed and protected as a sacred right. Idols, however, have a way of lurking where Christians least expect them. Sometimes the temptation to make a "good thing" the center of our lives -- be it our work, our ministry, a volunteer project etc., -- can seem harmless. It can seem almost impossible to be "tempted" by something good. We can pour all our energy and effort into a good and worthy cause; sometimes, however, this comes at a price. When we replace Christ as the central focus of our life we take a great risk of becoming a prisoner. This is not to imply that we should not apply ourselves diligently to our work, our play, our responsibilities. Indeed, we should. Whether we are religious men and women, parents with children, single Christians, etc., Christ is the end of all we do. He values and blesses anything we do in his name and for his glory -- it matters little whether it is sweeping a floor or changing a diaper. We are freed from becoming prisoners to our work, our responsibilities and our hobbies because of this great promise -- we have only to let him in when he comes, for he comes with arms outstretched.

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