O Clavis David or Missus Est?

Today puts me in a quandary. Do I write about the day’s O antiphon or follow monastic tradition by commenting on the day’s gospel in what is known as a Missus Est because it focuses on the words, ‘An angel was sent from God’? Or can we have something of both?

Today’s O antiphon is

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel; qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.
O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel, who open and no one shuts, who shuts, and no one opens, come and free from prison him who sits in darkness and the shadow of death.

It is impossible to sing that antiphon without thinking of St Bernard’s words in a Missus Est written nearly nine hundred years ago. He addresses Our Lady, daughter of David’s royal line, urging her to give the waiting angel her consent to what God asks of her, to give the word which will give us the Word made flesh. He pictures all creation on its knees before her, including Adam and those imprisoned in darkness and the shadow of death.

I think we can identify with all those on the fringes with Adam, as it were, whose faith is sometimes wobbly, whose lives are sometimes messy but who are sure (most of the time) of this: our need for a Saviour. We are reminded today of both our fragility and our glory as human beings. Mary gave her consent to be the Mother of God in a moment of unequalled faith. Had she not done so, we would be in darkness still.  Jesus is the one and only Key, but his Mother provides the lock and wards that allow the Key to work.


4 thoughts on “O Clavis David or Missus Est?”

  1. Wonderful piece. I think the roles played by both Mary and her kinswoman Elizabeth show characteristics that go way beyond the “passive acceptance” that they are sometimes portrayed as showing.

  2. I do find myself sitting on the fringes with Adam. Many times I sit in a prison of my own making with gloomy thoughts. It is a great comfort to know that the Saviour brings not merely light and words of comfort but is the key that opens the dungeon door.Let me learn to yield in faith like Mary.

  3. Thank you for your luminous commentaries on the Antiphons. You give us a glimpse of their power and wonder. Amidst all the festive rush, here is the stillness at the heart of it all.

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