Archive for Key of David

O Key of David: God’s Will and Prisons of Our Own Making

Posted in Advent, O Antiphons, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on December 20, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

gate of heavenO 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.

In the past, I’ve thought about today’s O Antiphon in terms of the captivity that binds us, entraps us, and prevents us from the freedom that God desires for us. The coming of Christ as the “Key of David,” presumably offers us the escape by means of the unlocking of these restraints or prisons, literal or figurative, of our lives.

However, this year I’m much more attentive to the first line of the antiphon: “O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of heaven.”

This tone-setting introduction for the rest of the antiphon that deals with captivity, imprisonment, and freedom, could easily be overlooked or misunderstood. It could be overlooked because force with which the remainder of the antiphon captivates the proclaimer and hearers. It could be misunderstood because of the general feeling that comes with talking about prisons, death, darkness, and captivity — it doesn’t take much imagination to think that some might see God’s controlling the gate of heaven at will as arbitrary and threatening.

This is not my sense of the opening line. That God controls the gate of heaven, as it is described, at will suggests to me that what we might likely fear — an arbitrary, spiteful, or vindictive God/Gatekeeper — is not at all the occupier of that position. In fact, what God has revealed about God’s self to us over the course of human history, what is contained in Scripture and experienced in the Christ event, really rejects this sort of caricature of the almighty hall monitor.

I see a God who desires that all people and all of creation return to their source — God. Creation does a pretty good job on its own being what it truly is. In other words, blades of grass or puppies have a difficult time sinning because they aren’t in the business of trying to be something that they’re not.

We humans, however, make that a full-time job.

What God really desires from us is that we live to the fullest the lives we were created to live, individually loved into being, uniquely and particularly cared-for from all eternity. Yet, this is not how we live. We live out of fear, out of a desire for power or control, out of a sense of our own best interest over against that of anybody (or everybody) else.

What God really desires, it would seem to me, is that all come through the “gate of heaven” and escape the prison, the darkness, and the shadow of death that ensnares us in the fear of facing ourselves, others, and God simply as we are.

To say that Christ, the key of David, controls the gates at will suggests that it is “Thy Will” that is done, not our own. God’s will in Christ is to care for all people and welcome home the prodigal son, the woman at the well, the lame, the blind, the unholy, the adulterer, the cheater, the sinner, all people. Thank God that it is Thy Will by which the gate of heaven is controlled and not according to our will.

That this might be the will of God, the desire for all to be themselves in right relationship with others, creation, and God, means to live in the freedom mentioned at the end of the antiphon. The prison is of our own making. The key to the chains is living as we are supposed to live in God’s eyes. The freedom comes with making God’s will “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Photo: Stock

O Key of David: From Death to Life

Posted in O Antiphons, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on December 20, 2011 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

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.

The notion of a release from captivity and freedom for those in need of being set free continues to come through the O Antiphons, as it does throughout the Book of the prophet Isaiah. We reflected the other day, during the O Adonai antiphon, on the need we might have to be set free from ourselves in the limitations and divisions in which we find ourselves, in which, at times, we place ourselves. Today’s antiphon evokes for me a more external question of captivity, the need so many in our world have for release from powers outside their control.

It is interesting that the thing from which the people need release in this antiphon is death. It is both an existential part of who we are as human, limited and finite, but it is also something over which we have no individual or personal power or control. Like the return of the Lord, “we know neither the day nor the hour” that we will leave this world for the next. It can be scary and debilitating, but the Christian tradition offers us a different look at what it means to talk about death and what our relationship to that reality should be.

The holidays are a difficult time for people to think about death (then again, anytime is a difficult time to think about death), but it can also be a time, particularly at Christmas when we celebrate the Key of David‘s entrance into our world and lives to lead us all from captivity to freedom, from death to life.

So often many Christians like to associate the Lord’s freeing humanity from the captivity of death with the Passion and Resurrection. Surely this is understandable and is indeed a central tenet of our faith. However, it is Christmas that brings me most often face-to-face with the reality of our freedom brought by Christ in terms of life and death. I come to this realization by following in the footprints of St. Francis who has shown me by his own life, writings and the early stories by his brothers about him, that Christmas holds pride of place because the Incarnation itself provides the very condition for the possibility of Resurrection. As I reflected here a few months ago (“Francis and the Incarnation: Remember the Importance of Christmas“), the early Franciscan collection of recollections titled The Assisi Compilation portrays Francis’s own focus on the importance of the Incarnation celebrated at Christmas.

For blessed Francis held the Nativity of the Lord in greater reverence than any other of the Lord’s solemnities. For although the Lord may have accomplished our salvation in his other solemnities [i.e., Holy Week and Easter], nevertheless, once He was born to us, as blessed Francis would say, it was certain that we would be saved. On that day he wanted every Christian to rejoice in the Lord and, for love of Him who gave Himself to us, wished everyone to be cheerfully generous not only to the poor but also to the animals and birds (AC 14, emphasis added).

The “Key of David” is Christ the Lord who comes to unlock life eternal and help lead us onward on the path God destined us from all eternity: returning all creation back to God.

Photo: Stock

O Key of David: Come Free Our Hearts

Posted in O Antiphons with tags , , on December 20, 2010 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

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.

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