Archive for the O Antiphons Category

O Come Emmanuel: Everyday Incarnation

Posted in Advent, O Antiphons, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on December 23, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

incarnationO Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.

There is only one Incarnation, but there are infinite signs of emmanuel.

I am struck today by the text from Isaiah that is the source for this antiphon: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign; the young woman, pregnant and about to bear a son, shall name him Emmanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). The name of the coming Lord was foretold, but it wasn’t a proper name so much as a description of what God was about to do and what God has intended from all eternity.

The pregnant young woman, Mary of Nazareth, was a sign that fits the description of Isaiah, but she hasn’t been nor remains the only sign of emmanuel, God-with-us. If we are able to open the eyes of our hearts to see the presence of God around us, we know too can see signs of a divine love so powerful that it could not be contained simply to Godself, but must overflow into creation and in the ultimate expression of love in God’s becoming one with us.

Some years ago I wrote an article titled, “A Newborn and St. Bonaventure’s The Tree of Life as Incarnational Encounters.” In it I talked about how the experience of meeting and holding my godson, the firstborn of my two best friends from college, had been for me an experience of the Incarnation, of emmanuel. I saw reflected in the preciousness of this new life the reality of a mystery beyond words, a mystery that lies deep within each of us in the very contingent existence we experience. We didn’t have to be. Nothing did. Yet, God loved each of us and all of creation into existence.

In addition to experiencing the Incarnation in meeting this newborn child, I also recalled how St. Bonaventure in his treatise The Tree of Life offers a mystical reflection that would later serve as the foundation for and become popularized by Ignatian imaginative prayer and reflection. Bonaventure invites his readers to enter into the Gospel and imagine themselves there at the crib, alongside Christ, at the cross, and to experience what is being experienced in particular moments of God’s history with us as one like us.

Bonaventure’s reflections on the nativity are particularly striking for their vividness and beauty. His is a guided meditation: “Do not now turn away from the brilliance of that star in the east which guides you. Become a companion of the holy kings… adore, confess and praise this humble God lying in a manger.” He then invites us to “embrace that divine manger; press your lips upon and kiss the boy’s feet.” To kiss the newborn baby’s feet like parents admiring the new life they’ve co-created is something that has always stayed with me. It is real and lovely and far-less-abstract than talking about “keeping ‘Christ’ in Christmas.”

This sort of reflection helps me to think about the everyday experiences –- like new parents with their child or the love between partners or the beauty of creation –- that helps reveal and remind us of emmanuel. Christmas then is not simply a once-a-year time for presence and songs and “keeping ‘Christ’ in Christmas,” but is the starkest reminder of how Christ is already in Christmas and the day after Christmas and the day after that!

How better could we celebrate what we believe about the Incarnation than shifting our awareness to the presence of God-with-us still? May this Christmas be the beginning of putting “Christ” back in the “everyday!” And may we all bear witness to the infinite signs of presence and coming of Emmanuel.

Photo: Stock

O King of All the Nations: We Are Not One

Posted in Advent, O Antiphons with tags , , , , on December 22, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

international_flags2O King of all nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of humankind, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.

Anytime there is a tragedy or a triumph the expression “We Are One” seems to appear on placards and t-shirts, perhaps second only to the phrase “never forget.” Yet, I don’t believe that there is a less-truthful expression of reality out there. Rather than turning toward our inherent unity, that which we all share in common by way of source and future, we tend to bicker, fight, steal, maim, and abuse. This happens within the human family, but it also happens beyond it — a reality starkly aware to those paying attention to our ecological crises.

The reason that “We Are One” is so disingenuous has to do, I believe, with the second part of the first phrase in today’s antiphon: “the only joy of every human heart.” The reason that we are not one stems from, as Augustine would say, our disordered affections, the loving of things in a way disproportionate to their value. Augustine’s perennial concern was that things and people are mistakenly loved in this life as if they were God. God is be loved above all else, to be the only joy of every human heart, yet we subordinate God to material things like money and power or we subordinate God even to good things like those close to us.

Augustine does not think that we should only love God and disregard other people, creatures, and things in this life. Instead, the question is how do we love when we love God? Or, put more directly, what do we love more than God?

What the life of Jesus Christ reveals to us, what we anticipate in the quickly approaching feast of the Incarnation, is how we are to love God as if God was the only joy of every human heart. What Christ shows by demonstration is that to love God with all our heart and strength is to love others. To love God with all our heart and strength is to do that when it’s difficult, when we don’t want to, when we’d rather love someone or something else first, more, or rather-than.

While it is true that we are not one, I believe that today’s antiphon calls us to reflect on how we might become more unified in shifting the objects of our love and affection. Loving God with a singular joy means loving others in concrete and identifiable ways. Only then will today’s O Antiphon come to fruition: God can then be king of all the nations, a sign that we know our source and our goal, the object of our greatest love that is made manifest in our care and concern for others.

Photo: Stock

O Radiant Dawn: The Circle of Life

Posted in Advent, O Antiphons, Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 21, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

earthsunriseO Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

The catchiness of Disney’s The Lion King‘s opening song notwithstanding, I’m thinking of a circle of life having to do with a little more substance in light of today’s antiphon: “O Radiant Dawn, Splendor of Eternal Light.” Light itself is the source of life, at least that’s the case in this world. Without our Sun, there would be no life nor would there be an ecosystem capable of sustaining the life that finds its origins in that gaseous star closest to us. Each dawn marks the cycle, the circle, of light and darkness, of life and death, that completes the circle of life on this planet: Photosynthesis, consumption, decomposition, metabolization, regrowth, and so on.

Like all other living creatures — human and nonhuman alike — we are dependent on light to live. But like the bread about which Jesus speaks in the Gospel, we do not live on planetary light alone!

There is another light that dispels the darkness of death, a light that shows the way to go, a light that brings another kind of life. This is Christ the Light, the God of Light. What is interesting about what constitutes the Radiant Dawn, the Light of Life, is that this light is also the sun of justice. The life that Jesus Christ came to bring, that life that he desires us to have and live to the fullest, is a life of justice and peace. It is a life that is perhaps best reflected in the words and actions of Pope Francis when he calls our attention to the plight of the poor and downtrodden, the marginalized and forgotten, the voiceless and those thrown away.

The circle of life calls us to move in a direction away from the darkness of the night brought about by injustice and abuse, suffering and subjugation, to recognize that only in addressing these sins — individually and socially — can we begin to live in the light toward which we are called. This is why we celebrate Christmas. This is why we celebrate what the Hebrew Prophets and John the Baptist foretold. This is what it means to call ourselves Christians.

The imagery of light is used frequently throughout the Gospels to describe what it means to announce the Kingdom of God. We are called to reflect that light, which comes from the sun of justice, such that we can shine God’s love, mercy, forgiveness, and good news on others. We don’t do this with empty words and vapid platitudes, but with our feet and our hands and our actions.

Today’s antiphon includes a petition on our behalf: “Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,” but it implies a response that we might not want to hear — a response, I believe, that most of us usually ignore.

The response as laid out in Scripture and modeled by the holy lives of saints and women and men of good will over the centuries is that the light of justice only shines when we are willing to be bearers of that light. Christ is not a helicopter savior who pops down miraculously here and there to help this or that person. Christ is the fullest revelation of who God is and simultaneously reveals to us who we are. We are the bearers of that light, we are those whose lives are nourished and sustained by the sun of justice, we are the ones who must do something.

Photo: Stock

O Key of David: Unlocking Life, Freedom, and Light

Posted in Advent, O Antiphons with tags , , , , , on December 20, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

keyring and keysO Key of David, O Royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of heaven: come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.

There are many terms and images we use and invoke to describe Christ. There is emmanuel, God-with-us; there is the Son of Man; there is the Incarnate Word; there is The Lord.  But how often do we pause and reflect on the coming of the Christ, the Messiah, and think: “Key of David.” In Latin the word clavis is literally a key that one might use to unlock a door. It connotes, like today’s O Antiphon names, a “power” that “controls” a passageway, a gate. But what might it mean for us to think about the coming of the Lord, the Advent of God in terms of a key?

I wonder if it isn’t one of the more appropriately literal images among the varied antiphonal terms. Unlike the Eastern Sun or Morning Star of tomorrow, or the Root of Jesse earlier this week, the key (clavis) has a singular and clear purpose: locking or unlocking something. While the other images lend themselves to a broader interpretation and metaphorical application, the Key of David begs to be seen for what it is — odd.

It’s odd to think about the Word-Made-Flesh as a key, but the second part of today’s antiphon points to what sort of locking and unlocking the Christ provides: Life and Death, Freedom and Captivity, Light and Darkness.

I get the feeling that so much of our world is conditioned by an attitude of death, captivity, and darkness. It can be difficult amid real suffering and pain, true injustice and abuse, to see life, freedom, and light in this life. Yet, the Key of David has entered the world to unlock this reality, the reality that Jesus of Nazareth called the Reign of God (Basileia tou Theou). And it is the reality that God has called each of us to announce and unlock as well (“Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will Be Done…”).

Whereas the Christ, the Key of David, comes to unlock those who need life, freedom, and light (“I have come to proclaim good news to the poor…”), we are also keys of a sort. However, we can turn ourselves far too often into gates that exclude and divide, that bring darkness and captivity. Perhaps we are not acting in such a way as to lock others out or cast a shadow of darkness or death over others, but when we aren’t walking, acting, and unlocking the Kingdom of God in the footprints of Jesus Christ, what other option is there?

Today’s antiphon has me thinking about the ways that we respond to the daily choices to lock or unlock, to work toward freedom or enclose others in captivity, and to reflect the light of God in the world or contribute to casting a shadow of darkness. The choice is ours, we are the key.

Photo: Stock

O Root of Jesse: The New Family of Christ

Posted in Advent, O Antiphons, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on December 19, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Family_Portrait_O Root of Jesse, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.

My maternal grandfather was a big fan of genealogical research. I remember being a boy and going with him and my grandmother to libraries all over Central New York where he would read through hundreds of old newspapers on large microfilm machines, looking at obituaries and news articles for information about this or that person or potential relation. When he finally got a computer, one of the first programs he installed was family tree software and my brothers, my cousins, and I would often serve as his tech-advisors. While I loved that he loved this hobby so much and I learned a lot from it, family trees and genealogical research never interested me in themselves. What I loved was spending time with my grandparents and, as my work and ministry in academia has since reflected back to me, I think I loved being in the library and the process of research.

Such has been the case with the genealogies at the beginning of both Matthews’s and Luke’s Gospels — I find them to be rather boring, at least on the surface. Their points, although emphasized differently, are understandable and I don’t begrudge the evangelical redactors for the inclusion of these family lines, but I think I’ve always been much more interested in what follows in the Gospels about Jesus’s family than what opens them respectively.

No offense to Micah and Isaiah, who prophesied that the Messiah would come from the lineage of King David, the son of Jesse. But Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection establish a new family, one that transcends these earthly limitations and linear structures. And the new family of Christ helps to redefine how we understand the human family and the kinship of Christianity.

We begin to see this, for example, in the Gospel of Matthew when Jesus has this famous encounter:

While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matt 12:46-50).

The key is not the blood or biological or genealogical relationship, but the relationship established by doing the Will of God, which announces the in-breaking of the Kingdom of Heaven, the Reign of God.

We also get a glimpse of this new vision of family when Jesus, dying on the Cross, turns to his friend and to his mother and confirms another form of familiar relationship, a community of faith that stands for support, love, care, challenge, and embrace.

The Body of Christ, which is the church, is the new family of Christ, the lineage and inheritance of the Root of Jesse. It is not so much from whom you came as much as for whom you live! Are we part of this family tree? Do we do the will of God? Do we announce the in-breaking of the Kingdom?

Photo: Stock

O Holy Lord: The God Who Hears Our Cries

Posted in Advent, O Antiphons with tags , , , , , , , on December 18, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

bt-sufferingO 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 out your mighty hand to set us free.

Today’s O Antiphon invokes the Lord (Adonai), the God of Israel, who appears to Moses and reveals God’s own identity to the prophet in a direct and personal way. When many people think of the identity of the God who reveals Godself to Moses in the burning bush on Sinai, they think of the line from Exodus 3:14 “God said to Moses, ‘I am Who I Am.’” At this point it seems sufficient to accept this as the name of God. But the theophany continues; the name of God has not yet been fully revealed.

If we keep reading, we note that God explains further:

God also said to Moses: ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites,
“The Lord, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you”:
This is my name forever,
and this is my title for all generations (Exodus 3:15).

Rather than the Western, Greek, philosophical “I am,” what Thomas Aquinas will theologize as God’s interchangeable name and identity (esse = “being”), we see that God explains God’s own identity in relational terms. God is the one who has been there for all of Moses’s ancestors, for all times, for all generations. Who God is can only be understood in terms of for whom God is. And like for Moses, God is the Lord (Adonai) who is there for us!

But it doesn’t stop there. The identity of the Lord, Adonai, who reveled Godself to Moses in the burning bush explains that in addition to having been and always being there for Moses and his fellow Israelites, God explains that the Lord hears the cries of the poor (Ps 34). The next two lines of the Book of Exodus (vv 16-17) convey this when God explains to Moses that the suffering of the enslaved Israelites has not gone unnoticed by the Lord.

“I have given heed to you and what has been done to you in Egypt. I declare that I will bring you up out of the misery of Egypt,” God explains.

Yesterday I listened to the weekly New Yorker podcast after I began reading James Carroll’s lead article this week on Pope Francis. The former priest and best-selling author, Carroll, participated in a conversation about the pope who is making such an impression on the world stage. In passing Carroll, who defended the idea that Pope Francis’s so-called “symbolic actions” are in fact much more significant than the demeaning qualifier symbolic means to suggest, made the point that our whole faith as Christians (and this is true for our Jewish sisters and brothers) is not centered on a God who first sees sin. Rather, our God is a God who hears the cry of the poor and first recognizes our suffering.

As we get closer to the Solemnity of the Incarnation at Christmas, we should take close note of this truth as it appears to us in Scripture. Far too often people hold the “Mel Gibson” approach to Christmas, projecting the suffering of the Passion onto the Birth of the Lord — Jesus entered this world because we had to be “saved” from sin.

No. The Word Became Flesh because God loves us and wants to draw near to us (the relational “God of your Fathers” has sent you…) and hears our cries of lament, of suffering, of injustice, of pain, of loss, and of the experience of sin.

Yes, through the Incarnation we have indeed been redeemed, but our sin is not what God first sees. The suffering of individuals and communities is what God first sees!

We know this because Jesus proclaims this at the beginning of his public ministry, reading from and fulfilling the oracle of the Prophet Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives,
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s Favor
 (Luke 4:18-19).

Nowhere does the Lord say, “I have come because you have screwed up.” Nowhere does the Lord say, “Your sin is what I’m most concerned with.” Nowhere does the Lord say, “O happy fault!”

Instead, the Lord, the one who reveals Godself to Moses on Sinai in the burning bush, comes because of divine love and in response to the suffering of those in the world. Our task, our call as Christians, is to do what Pope Francis has been reminding us to do and what Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, demonstrated with his life, death, and resurrection.

We need to become more God-like, become like the Lord who hears the cry of the poor, responds to the suffering in the world, and draws near to announce the good news that we’re going to do something about it!

Photo: Stock

O Wisdom: The Christocentricity of Creation

Posted in Advent, O Antiphons with tags , , , , , , on December 17, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

creation_redemption_carmichael-braun_cropO Wisdom, O Holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.

It is that time of year again and I can hardly believe it. December Seventeenth ushers in the beginning of the “O Antiphons.” These last seven days of the Advent season are marked by the seven antiphons prayed before the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) in the Church’s Liturgy of the Hours at evening prayer (vespers). These short snippets of prayerful anticipation and prophecy continue to be something I look forward to every winter as we call to mind, live out and anticipate the coming of the Lord. As has been my tradition each Advent in recent years, I offer a short reflection each day.

Typically, when considering the governing of creation, it is the Holy Spirit that comes to mind. One thinks of the ruah of God bringing order to the tohuwabohu (the cosmic “chaos”) of the first creation account in Genesis or the ruah of God that is the breath of life given to both humanity and all creation in the second account. Yet, today’s Marian antiphon focuses on the wisdom and word of God. These terms are, like the spirit or ruah mentioned above, symbols of Divine Immanence traced back to the Hebrew Scriptures and adopted to refer to Christ after the Incarnation.

But that’s what makes the antiphon somewhat odd, at least at first glance — Isn’t it the spirit that governs creation? Isn’t it the spirit that leads all of creation back to God, what we more casually call salvation? What does the word, the dabar, the logos have to do with that?

Perhaps this is an opportunity to consider what Irenaeus of Lyons talks about in his Trinitarian theology when he discusses the spirit and the word as the “two hands of God” (Adversus Haereses 5.17.4). For Irenaeus, drawing on Scripture, creation is always the act of the Triune God. To assert this necessarily requires explication about the role of the Second and Third personae of the Trinity: Son and Spirit. In other words, you cannot talk about creation without, at the same time, somehow talking about all three personae of the Trinity. Irenaeus’s reflection on the Son’s (word/logos/dabar) action in the act of Creation plays what we might call a cardinal role and strongly echoes today’s O Antiphon:

For the Creator of the world is truly the Word of God: and this is our Lord, who in the last times was made human, existing in this world, and who in an invisible manner contains all things created, and is inherent in the entire creation, since the Word of God governs and arranges all things; and therefore He came to His own in a visible manner, and was made flesh, and hung upon the tree, that He might sum up all things in Himself (AH 5.18.3).

This is not a novel concept, for the famous Christological hymn in the Letter to the Colossaians proclaims this Christocentricity of Creation and Salvation, the exitus and reditus of God’s Divine Action.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers — all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace throughout he blood of his cross (Colossians 1:15-20).

While Irenaeus presents this reflection on the role of Christ at the center of creation and the creative act of God in a clear and Trinitarian frame, it carries on through the Christian tradition — particularly in the medieval Franciscan school exemplified in the thought of Bonaventure and John Duns Scotus.

Today, as we begin the annual “O Antiphonal Christmas Countdown,” we are given the chance to reflect on what the coming of the Lord means not just in terms of the Incarnation and earthly life, but in the cosmic scope of God’s loving action, intention, and plan. Creation, Incarnation, and Salvation are not individual, discrete doctrines, but aspects of a richly interrelated whole that give us particular glimpses into who God is and what God desires for all creation.

Christ, the wisdom and word of God, stands at the center of creation, through him all is brought into existence and unto whom all will return to God. There is much to celebrate in these dark days of wintery Advent, for unto us a child is born — God-with-us from the beginning and until the end.

Photo: Charis Carmichael

O Come Emmanuel: Savior of All People?

Posted in Advent, O Antiphons with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

christmas-mass-timesO Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.

In recent years there has been a hot theological topic, made public and popular by discussions surrounding Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins, that centers on what the meaning of salvation is and for whom it applies. Today’s O Antiphon, the last of the seven, directs our attention to the coming of Christ as God-with-us, Emmanuel. It is no surprise, perhaps, that the last of the antiphons focuses on the uniqueness and significance of the Incarnation and ties that reality — the truth of God-with-us — to Christ’s role as “savior of all people.” The technical term for what it means to talk about salvation for all is Apokatastasis, which is a fancy word for the belief that God desires and is capable of universal salvation. As one might imagine, as many saw with the melee that broke out around Bell’s reflection on this question, there is a natural tension present in such a claim. What about sin? What if I don’t want to be “saved?” What, then, is salvation all about?

Without getting into the complications of these questions, which have been the source of reflection dating back to St. Paul’s time (read his letters to the Thessalonians, for example, this is a persistent concern throughout) and seen considered from the Patristic area onward, I want to offer this consideration for us to ponder as the celebration of Christmas draws near: What does it mean to profess that Christ, emmanuel, is the “savior of all people?”

Take, for example, this passage from Gaudium et Spes, which seems to help us to understand better what this antiphon might mean in affirming that Christ is “savior of all people.”

While helping the world and receiving many benefits from it, the Church has a single intention: that God’s kingdom may come, and that the salvation of the whole human race may come to pass. For every benefit which the People of God during its earthly pilgrimage can offer to the human family stems from the fact that the Church is ‘the universal sacrament of salvation’ simultaneously manifesting and actualizing the mystery of God’s love. For God’s Word, by whom all things were made, was Himself made flesh so that as perfect man He might save all men and sum up all things in Himself. The Lord is the goal of human history, the focal point of the longings of history and of civilization, the center of the human race, the joy of every heart and the answer to all its yearnings. He it is Whom the Father raised from the dead, lifted on high and stationed at His right hand, making Him judge of the living and the dead. Enlivened and united in His Spirit, we journey toward the consummation of human history, one which fully accords with the counsel of God’s love: ‘To reestablish all things in Christ, both those in the heavens and those on the earth’ (Eph. 1:10). [no. 45]

Do we celebrate this sense of what God has done for us by entering our world as one like us? Or are we more prone to treat salvation as the reward for lifelong membership in an organization? Do we see the working of God’s Spirit in the world, bringing all people and all of creation (see Romans 8) back to God’s self in Christ? Or is Christ only the savior of those for whom it is easy, palatable, and comfortable for me to imagine or for whom I desire this telos?

This Christmas, may we come to see the world and the human family the way that God does: without borders, without discrimination, and with the hope of peace shared among all people, a peace that the world cannot give, but a peace that has been given to us by the coming of Christ, by Emmanuel.

Photo: Stock

O King of All Nations: This is My Song

Posted in Advent, O Antiphons, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on December 22, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Draw_Me_The_World_by_stickerstickerO King of all nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of humankind, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.

In the United States, especially in times of political contestation and in a year when even religious leaders decry specters of threats against “religious liberty,” it can be difficult to think of the coming of Christ as the coming of the “King of all nations.” The king of Iran, the king of Israel, the king of North Korea, and of China, the United States, and Haiti. Because of this truth, the fact that we believe that Christ is indeed the keystone of the “might arch of humankind,” that we need to put down temptations of extreme patriotism, jingoism, and discrimination on all fronts.

The United States is not the greatest nation on earth. All nations have things about which to be proud and things for which to be ashamed. Greatness, at least greatness as conceived by Jesus’s instruction to his disciples to be the least and to serve all, has not been intentionally achieved by any human community on this earth.

Nevertheless, the King of all nations comes. Christ is near. Are we ready to accept that? To accept our interrelatedness with all people on earth? Or will we, especially in the United States, continue to look only at ourselves to the disregard of all others?

In honor of today’s O Antiphon, I want to share the lyrics to one of my favorite songs: This is My Song, set to Sebelius’s famous tune, Finlandia. This is my song today, my prayer for this O Antiphon.

This is my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my sacred shrine.
But other hearts in other lands are beating,
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
O hear my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.

May truth and freedom come to every nation;
May peace abound where strife has raged so long;
That each may seek to love and build together,
A world united, righting every wrong;
A world united in its love for freedom,
Proclaiming peace together in one song.

This is my prayer, O Lord of all earth’s kingdoms:
Thy kingdom come; on earth thy will be done.
Let Christ be lifted up till all shall serve him,
And hearts united learn to live as one.
O hear my prayer, thou God of all the nations;
Myself I give thee, let thy will be done.

Photo: File

O Radiant Dawn: Come, Creator of Light

Posted in Advent, O Antiphons, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on December 21, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Space sunriseO Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

The name “Creator of Light” has always been one of my favorite names for God. I remember first reading and loving a children’s book titled, In God’s Name by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso and illustrated by Phoebe Stone, a few years ago that presents a number of children and adults and talks about the various ways each person, given his or her cultural, work, and familial histories, named God. The book begins:

After God created the world
all living things on earth
were given a name.
The plants and the trees,
the animals and the fish
and each person,
young and old,
had a special name.

But no one knew
the name for God.

So each person searched
for God’s name.

With beautiful and bright illustrations, the book continues with a short glance into the worlds of different people who, as it would happen, name God based on his or her context and location. The first example is:

The farmer
whose skin was dark
like the rich brown earth
from which all things grew
called God
Source of Life.

Another example later on shows a soldier sitting under a tree and embracing a saddened lion while surrounded by Poppies. The soldier is crying.

The tired soldier who fought too many wars
called God
Maker of Peace.

I really love this book, for it helps identify an existential truth of our historical situation, something that so many religious leaders and believers choose not to accept: our names for God are at one-and-the-same-time helpful and true, while also inadequate and human. Yes, as it is sometimes argued, we have revealed names for God — the Bible is full of them. Nevertheless, the God of our ancestors, the God of Jesus Christ is also far beyond any of the human language in which the Scriptures is cast and by which we express our faith.

My favorite name for God in this book, is Creator of Light, which is given by “the girl whose skin was as golden as the sun that turned night into day.” One does not need to have skin the color of the sun — everybody knows that my Irish-American skin is anything but that — to appreciate the significance, beauty, and awe that comes with the move from night into day.

Furthermore, the Creator of Light is already also the Source of Life as we know so well from our knowledge of biology. Without the sun, without light, we would have no existence, and for this gift of life and light, we are grateful.

The coming of Christ announced in today’s O Antiphon points to this truth, the truth in a physical way and in a spiritual way, if such a distinction really can be made. Light gives life, but it also uncovers and makes known the injustice of our world, gives hope to those in the dark shadows of death, and offers us the promise of a future, of something more, of a breaking dawn.

Photo: Stock
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