Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Tonight’s is the last of the “O antiphons” since tomorrow night is Christmas Eve and everything is pre-empted by the formal beginning of the Christmas season with Evening Prayer I (for the evening of 12-24). Note that Christmas Eve is the beginning of the Christmas season (as opposed to, say, the day after Halloween, at Wal-Mart…). The final text is:

O Emmanuel, our King and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.

Notice how this last antiphon piles up images from the previous ones: king, lawgiver, desire of nations. But this is actually the first and only time that the name “Emmanuel” is used, the invocation highlighting our longing that He truly be “God-with-us.”

It’s obvious, too, from all these antiphons that the common theme has been one of being set free. Christ is the true joy of the human heart and the real desire of the nations (even if they/we don’t realize it). He is the one who can truly set us free—“…everyone who lives in sin is a slave of sin…That is why, if the son frees you, you will really be free” (John 8:34, 36). To paraphrase St. Paul (Romans 8:31), if Christ is “God-with-us,” who can be opposed?

To be saved and free, to have life and joy, to dwell in the presence of God who loves us: we can truly sing from our hearts, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”!

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