18 Dec 2010

Advent - O Antiphons - December 18th - O Adonai: O Sacred Lord

Adonai, et Dux domus Israel qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extenso.

“Literal” translation:
O Lord, and Leader of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the red fire of flame and who gave the Law to him on Sinai: come, for liberating us with [your] outstretched arm.

Present ICEL Translation:
O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch our your mighty hand to set us free.

Reflection from the PrayTell Blog:

Assigned as the Gospel Verse at Eucharist and the Antiphon for the Canticle of Mary at Evening Prayer on 18 December, “O Adonai” continues the Advental theme of longing for God’s transformation of the human condition. Employing the same musical phrases as the other “O” Antiphons, it exhibits the same two-part grammatical structure: a divine invocation under various titles and relative clauses followed by the request to come for a particular purpose.

While there may be some debate over whether the Triune God or specifically Christ is invoked in this antiphon, I take “Adonai” to refer to the one God known as YHWH to the Jews and manifested as a Trinity of Divine Persons with the incarnation of the Second Person in Jesus of Nazareth. As is well known, “Adonai” means “my Lord” in Hebrew and was substituted in public recitation of the scriptures for the sacred Tetragrammaton, YHWH, representing God’s proper name as revealed in Exodus 3. This God is named as the true guide and protector (dux) of the house of Israel, and by extension those who enjoy covenant relationship with this God. As in other First Testament passages when God is identified as “God of…” (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc.), here God is presented as preeminently “God of Moses,” both because of the mysterious divine calling to Moses from the burning bush which eventuates in the revelation of the divine name and because of the great gift of Torah represented by the ten “words” (commandments) bestowed upon Moses as the covenant stipulations established for the Hebrew people. Notice that both of the verbs in these relative clauses are in the perfect tense indicating actions completed in the past whose effects continue into the present.

The unique focus of the request in this antiphon is that God would come to free those who are praying . At core the verb used evokes the idea of redemption and is taken from the world of economics: a payment is made on our behalf in order to cancel our debt. That this payment would be made by God’s “outstretched arm” at once recalls the refrain in the Deuteronomic history of God’s intervention in human history “with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” and the Christian midrash in which the extended arms of the Crucified Christ become the ultimate sign of redemption. How wonderfully, then, does this antiphon highlight the praise of the God who “has shown the strength of his arm” and “lifted up the lowly…” as the Magnificat so powerfully sings!

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