Being Moses

Today’s ‘O’ antiphon has always been one of my favourites, as you can tell from the frequency with which I have written about it. At first sight, it is quite straightforward:

O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammæ rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento. O Adonai, and Ruler of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the burning bush and gave him the Law on Sinai, come to redeem us with outstretched arm!

The reference to Moses, however, is multi-faceted. First, we are reminded of that mysterious vision of the bush which burned without being consumed. It was mere curiosity that led Moses to investigate, but how that changed when he was commanded to take off his shoes because he stood on holy ground! I suppose a modern parallel might be the tourist who finds himself become a pilgrim. An inner transformation takes place, and the barriers to understanding (symbolized by the shoes) are taken away. Then, second, there is that reference to the giving of the Law on Sinai. Privilege means responsibility. Moses is called the friend God, to whom God spoke face to face, but it was to be a demanding friendship (Exodus 33.11). He was to receive the Law and lead the unruly people of Israel towards the Promised Land, not an easy task.

I think there is something here that is as true in the secular sphere as it is in the religious. Whatever insights we may be given are not for ourselves alone, but working out whether they are valid and should be shared requires effort and a readiness to accept that we may be wrong. Moses is described as  the humblest man alive (Numbers 12. 3). I wonder whether any of us could claim to be humble about our opinions? Some are naturally more reticent, but that is not the same as humility. To be humble is to be grounded in reality  (humus = earth; humilitas = humility). For a Benedictine, that means to be grounded in the reality of God, too., which does not happen overnight, or merely by thinking or wishing.

Tonight, as we pray the ‘O’ antiphon, let us ask God that we may be transformed as Moses was, that we may truly welcome the Saviour of the World as he should be welcomed.


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