Is it easier for medievalists to sing today’s O antiphon than it is for others? We have so many apparently strange notions buzzing round our heads, from royal unction to feudal lordship and quasi-mystical conceptions of law and theology. We are (or should be) at home in the world of the Old Testament and the catena of texts the Fathers drew on to illuminate the meaning of scriptural references and ideas. Today’s antiphon is challenging, to say the least:
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!
We are invited to pray for the coming of Christ as absolute sole Lord of our lives, as Adonai, Master of the Universe, transcendent holiness — not as brother or companion on the way. He is leader and law-giver, ruler and redeemer, the beautiful fruit of Israel’s patient fidelity to the Covenant, but one who dwells in unapproachable fire and flame. We catch glimpses of him if we are prepared to venture beyond the ordinary and everyday but, most of the time, if we are honest, we miss the burning bush and see only low-growing scrub. Today, however, we are asked to do more than that, to open our eyes to the mystery within the ordinary, to the presence of Christ here and now. Advent turns on a paradox: the Lord is very near!
Note: today’s O antiphon, text and music (Flash needed) is available with scripture references here, http://bit.ly/1roZnkA