Archive for Emmanuel

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 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 Come Emmanuel: God Like Us

Posted in O Antiphons with tags , , , , , , on December 23, 2011 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

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

Three years ago I wrote an article titled, “A Newborn and St. Bonaventure’s The Tree of Life as Incarnational Encounters,” which was published in the journal Spiritual Life. This morning, while reflecting on today’s antiphon — O Emmanuel, O God-with-us — I kept returning to many of the same thoughts I had in that essay.

This first part of the article is a reflection on the experience of the Incarnation that we can have in the very ordinary experiences of our lives. For example, I felt the power of God-with-us (Emmanuel) in the meeting of best friends’ newborn son. I believe that there are ways in which we can experience and be inspired by a sort of Christmas, a celebration of the birth of Emmanuel, in our everyday lives.

After explaining the manifold ways Christ comes to us as a newly born presence in our lives, what I call moments of incarnational encounter, I explained that St. Francis has a particular ability to recognize these moments of Christ’s breaking into the world again and again in his own life. Then I shared some reflections on a masterwork of St. Bonaventure, The Tree of Life. St. Bonaventure presents us with the invitation to use our imaginations to enter into prayerful relationship with God (nearly four-hundred-years before Ignatius Loyola was born, one should note).

Bonaventure draws the reader into the place of Mary and to imagine the experience of the annunciation and conception. Speaking directly to the reader, Bonaventure says:

Oh, if you could feel in some way the quality and intensity of that fire sent from heaven, the refreshing coolness that accompanied it, the consolation it imparted; if you could realize the great exaltation of the Virgin mother, the ennobling of the human race, the condescension of the divine majesty; if you could go with your Lady into the mountainous region; if you could see the sweet embrace of the Virgin and the woman who had been sterile and hear the greeting in which the tiny servant recognized his Lord, the herald his Judge and the voice his Word, then I am sure… with the tiny prophet you would exalt, rejoice and adore the marvelous virginal conception!

Bonaventure leaves the realm of narrative description and takes on the task of spiritual guide. As if directing a play or writing a script, the reader is made to play a role in the unfolding of the story and encounter the Incarnate Christ; first as Mary did, next as her cousin Elizabeth did, followed by the infant John the Baptist and finally as ourselves present to the mystery and sharing in the joy of those who were present to the newly conceived infant Jesus.

At the end of this section, Bonaventure closes his reflection on the conception and birth of the Word-Made-Flesh with an invitation to enter into an intimate relationship with the newborn Christ. Like parents in awe of their newborn, gently caring for their child, Bonaventure leads us into the stable to meet the Incarnate Christ. In what remains one of the most moving lines in all of Bonaventure’s writings, displaying a real sense of Christ as a newborn baby, he says,

“Now, then, my soul, embrace that divine manger; press your lips upon and kiss the boy’s feet.”

The tone is strikingly different from most reflections on the Birth of the Lord. Bonaventure guides our meditative prayer toward a very real experience of an intimate connection with the newborn Christ.

As Christmas approaches, what is it that you imagine when you think of God-with-us?

This reflection was originally published on DatingGod.org on 23 December 2010 and reprinted for 23 December 2011.

O Come Emmanuel: God Like Us

Posted in O Antiphons with tags , , , , , , on December 23, 2010 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

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

Two years ago I wrote an article titled, “A Newborn and St. Bonaventure’s The Tree of Life as Incarnational Encounters,” which was published in the journal Spiritual Life. This morning, while reflecting on today’s antiphon — O Emmanuel, O God-with-us — I kept returning to many of the same thoughts I had in that essay.

This first part of the article is a reflection on the experience of the Incarnation that we can have in the very ordinary experiences of our lives. For example, I felt the power of God-with-us (Emmanuel) in the meeting of best friends’ newborn son. I believe that there are ways in which we can experience and be inspired by a sort of Christmas, a celebration of the birth of Emmanuel, in our everyday lives.

After explaining the manifold ways Christ comes to us as a newly born presence in our lives, what I call moments of incarnational encounter, I explained that St. Francis has a particular ability to recognize these moments of Christ’s breaking into the world again and again in his own life. Then I shared some reflections on a masterwork of St. Bonaventure, The Tree of Life. St. Bonaventure presents us with the invitation to use our imaginations to enter into prayerful relationship with God (nearly four-hundred-years before Ignatius Loyola was born, one should note).

Bonaventure draws the reader into the place of Mary and to imagine the experience of the annunciation and conception. Speaking directly to the reader, Bonaventure says:

Oh, if you could feel in some way the quality and intensity of that fire sent from heaven, the refreshing coolness that accompanied it, the consolation it imparted; if you could realize the great exaltation of the Virgin mother, the ennobling of the human race, the condescension of the divine majesty; if you could go with your Lady into the mountainous region; if you could see the sweet embrace of the Virgin and the woman who had been sterile and hear the greeting in which the tiny servant recognized his Lord, the herald his Judge and the voice his Word, then I am sure… with the tiny prophet you would exalt, rejoice and adore the marvelous virginal conception!

Bonaventure leaves the realm of narrative description and takes on the task of spiritual guide. As if directing a play or writing a script, the reader is made to play a role in the unfolding of the story and encounter the Incarnate Christ; first as Mary did, next as her cousin Elizabeth did, followed by the infant John the Baptist and finally as ourselves present to the mystery and sharing in the joy of those who were present to the newly conceived infant Jesus.

At the end of this section, Bonaventure closes his reflection on the conception and birth of the Word-Made-Flesh with an invitation to enter into an intimate relationship with the newborn Christ. Like parents in awe of their newborn, gently caring for their child, Bonaventure leads us into the stable to meet the Incarnate Christ. In what remains one of the most moving lines in all of Bonaventure’s writings, displaying a real sense of Christ as a newborn baby, he says,

“Now, then, my soul, embrace that divine manger; press your lips upon and kiss the boy’s feet.”

The tone is strikingly different from most reflections on the Birth of the Lord. Bonaventure guides our meditative prayer toward a very real experience of an intimate connection with the newborn Christ.

As Christmas approaches, what is it that you imagine when you think of God-with-us?

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