O 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.
Today’s antiphon might seem like one of the more obscure or odd of the seven. Referring to the coming messiah as a “key,” the Key of David, doesn’t usually make it into the lyrics of the top-ten Christmas songs of the season (if you exclude O Comes, O Come Emmanuel from the running). But the antiphon contains one of the clearest allusions to the significance of the Incarnation of all seven.
The power (dunamis) of Israel elicits the malkuth YHWH that breaks into history with the words and deeds of Jesus Christ. There is, again, a direct connection that can be made between the anticipatory antiphon that draws on the prophecy of Isaiah and the proclamation of Jesus’s ministry, part of which includes “setting the captives free.”
What holds us captive? For some it is the literal oppression of injustice in the world made manifest in myriad ways. For others it is the prison of our own self-centeredness and greed. No matter the captivity, the Incarnation reveals God’s intention for all of creation to be freed from the brokenness of our world, which is that hope contained in the proclamation of the Kingdom of God. Like the rest of the prophetic cries of Isaiah, this freedom from captivity was to come from the family of David.
As we prepare to celebrate the coming of the Lord, may we help usher in the Kingdom of God by bringing the light of Christ to those in darkness and the shadow of death. The Franciscan tradition has long spoken of the Christian call to be like Mary, bringing Christ to birth in our world. May we work with Christ to lead the captive people of this world into freedom.