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.
While there are certainly roots for this antiphon in the prophecy of Isaiah, I feel more compelled to reflect on some passages in the New Testament that this antiphon alludes to in its incarnational language. The first is the early Christian hymn found in the Letter to the Philippians.
Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:5b-11)
The Incarnation is, as the antiphon reminds us, the ‘keystone’ or centerpiece of creation. In the birth of Christ God unites creation with God’s very self in a way that points toward the eternal divine plan — that all creation return back to God. God desires, it would seem, nothing more than to be in relationship with us.
It is through the Incarnation (life), death and resurrection that God reconciles all things to God’s self. It is not simply the crucifixion, as some morbidly disturbed individuals wish to insist. Instead, it is God’s entrance into the economy of salvation, as part of creation, that is the unifying element. God so loved the world…
Let’s also look at Ephesians 2:13-18. Here we sense some more of the Christocentricity of God’s plan, while we also recall that it is precisely Christ who stands at the center of salvation.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments an legal claims,that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it. He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
Let us not lose sight of the meaning of Christmas, the true meaning — that God became one like us. This very act, planned as it was from all eternity (sorry Augustine, no Felix Culpa), is the high-point of salvation history. It is both a sign and an action; a sign of God’s plan for creation and the action of bringing that creation back to God.
By becoming a creature, fashioned from the dust, God saves us.