Friday, December 24, 2010

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Gaude! Gaude!
Emmanuel nascetur pro te Israel!

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!

Strictly speaking, we finished up the O-Antiphons yesterday with the climactic O Emmanuel Antiphon. Still, I felt that I would be remiss if I didn't include some king of concluding remarks on this series.

Here is the complete cycle, if you want to review it in its completed form:

O Wisdom
O Adonai
O Radix Jesse
O Clavis David
O Oriens
O Rex Gentium
O Emmanuel

I don't really know what I expected when I started on this series. I think that I liked the idea of the O Antiphons rather more than I understood them. My exposure to them until this year has been in the form of the hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and the odd mention of them in my spiritual reading including the amusing vignette by Kathleen Norris, in Cloister Walk (I think!), depicting her encounter with the O-Antiphons in the hills above LA after a busy few days of book-signings.

What this series has helped me to see is how much these Antiphons hang together and how they really are seven short lessons on just who it is that we're waiting for this and every Advent. Although it may seem perplexing that they tell about this Jesus through images and Old Testament typology, this cross connections make for a richer explanation of Jesus' place in our lives. No wonder they've been so cherished over the centuries.

So, what is Jesus, according to the O- Antiphons? He is God and Man. It is His birth that we celebrate on Saturday and it is the miracle of God becoming Man which makes this otherwise insignificant birth of a carpenter's son so important.

Yet, Jesus has always been here, working in the world that He, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, created. This Jesus, the carpenter's son, was a craftsman, long before he became human. He knows the world in a way that we cannot, because he made it.

Jesus has great power, but that is not afraid not to use it when it comes to finding the best way to save us. That is astonishing in this violent world, where the best answer for dealing with other people is coercion and, if necessary, violence. Jesus' apparent weakness, as a baby and, at the end of His life, on the Cross, masks his power, but it proves to be a subtle subversion of the very evil which threatens to destroy us.

Jesus is our Savior. That is, Jesus' whole goal in coming down to Earth as a human was to save us all, not only from our own self-destructiveness (as a species and as individuals), but the ultimate enemy of humanity, death. Indeed, He intends, not only to negate the greatest negation of our being (death), but to restore us to a connection to God, the Three-in-One, and with the Creation itself. We are called to return to our true home, God's home, and I pray that we find our way there in whatever way we can.

In this holiday season, I want to wish you, your family and all your loved ones a blessed Christmas and a wonderful New Year.

Christus natus est!



Jim said...

When we undertake the mystic walk we are never quite sure where we are going and even if we were, the Spirit has her own destinations for us.

I have appreciated your thoughts on the antiphons. The Spirit may well have more to say to you about them next year. I find that as I repeat the walk through the psalms that is true.

Christus natus est!


Phil Snider said...

HI Jim;

Thanks for your comments. These reflections feel very tentative and imperfect right now, so I appreciate your suggestion to revisit them next year. I'll certainly try to do that, even though we'll have a new baby by that time.

Many blessings on you and your family this Christmas holiday. Christus natus est!