23 December 2005

O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, expectatio gentium, et Salvator earum: Veni ad salvandum nos Domine Deus noster.
O Emmanuel, our King and law-giver, the desire of the nations and their Savior: come and save us Lord our God.

The six previous antiphons all herald the confession that this final antiphon makes: it calls Christ "Emmanuel" -- God with us. The Lord our God, is united with the Messiah who is called Emmanuel; the incarnation is pronounced in this antiphon. The title Emmanuel echoes the exchange between Ahaz and Yahweh: "Listen now, House of David: . . . The Lord himself, therefore, will give you a sign. It is this: the maiden is with child and will soon give birth to a son whom she will call Immanuel" (Is 7:13, 14). The title Emmanuel draws the connection to the royal line of David; it is but one of the four titles used in this antiphon. This sequence of appellations seems to come from Isaiah's description of what it will be like to be in the presence of Yahweh: "Yahweh is our judge, Yahweh is our lawgiver, Yahweh is our King and our Savior" (32:22). This list of titles encompasses the various nuances of the Old Testament symbols and their new, deeper, meaning in light of the Messiah's birth.

As the Church sings this last of the Great O Antiphons at Vespers, a time of fullness, we wait eagerly for the fulfillment of the great promises made in these antiphons. The lighting of the evening lamp, before Vespers, signals that the sun is soon to set; the signing of this last Great Antiphon signals that the Son is soon to rise. Let us wait in quiet stillness for the coming of the newborn King. Veni Emmanuel!

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