The Cornerstone: O Rex Gentium

Today’s O antiphon is

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.
O King of the Nations, and him for whom they long, the corner-stone who makes of both one, come and deliver man whom you made from clay.

It is a little too bald for some people’s liking. We are not often reminded that we are of the earth, earthy. We know we are divided, not just one against another but very often within our own self, but to think of ourselves as clay! As something that can be moulded, refashioned, fired, broken into dust again, that takes some getting used to. Yet the knowledge of our origin can remind us of something else, equally important. We are clay that has been stamped with the image and likeness of God. Our dust has been shared by the Son of God himself. It follows that the whole earth is sacred, every step we take is on holy ground.

I was thinking this morning of the tragedy unfolding  in South Sudan — the unimaginable violence; the destruction of human beings by human malice; the profanation of Christ in the person of those who suffer. It seems such a weak hope to pray for an end to the conflict, but pray we must; and I think today’s O antiphon gives us the words we need. We invoke the King of the Nations, the ruler of the gentiles, the one for whom we long, as the Cornerstone who alone can hold together the warring factions. In his humanity he too is clay, but unlike us poor potsherds, he has been fired to a strength and beauty that surpasses anything we could dream or desire. He comes as Saviour and Redeemer; today we pray that he will have mercy on the people of South Sudan, whom he created in his love and redeemed by the blood of his cross.

If you would like some scripture references to ponder in relation to today’s antiphon, try these: Isaiah 9:7; Isaiah 2:4; Isaiah 28:16; Haggai 2:8; Ephesians 2:14; Genesis 2:7