O 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.