O ADONAI, et Dux domus Israel,
qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.
O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and gave him the law on Sinai:
Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.
The First antiphon warned us of a choice ahead. We prayed for wisdom to make that choice. This antiphon either assumes that we have made that choice – correctly or not – or else continues to warn us of what is ahead. Yes, this antiphon like all the others is sung before Christmas. However the historical event of Christmas has already passed so this antiphon is more of a commentary than a prophecy. We read/sing it knowing how the story turned out. So, no matter how you made the choice in O Sapientia, we are here confronted with a warning or a commentary: the End-User Legal Agreement as it were, the Terms of Service. Click here to continue…
Jesus is God.
Quite simply, there is no Christianity without this. The man recorded in the New Testament is either a complete nutcase who constantly alluded to himself being one with the Father and God himself, or else he is that thing that he claimed to be. And yes, it is possible to edit the texts of the Gospels to make one feel more comfortable in them, it is possible to find other documents, or to argue that the Church is biased in her opinions. But then you’re not playing Christianity you’re playing Whatever-I-made-up-today. That’s ok, actually. You do you. But admit it – confess it even – you’re doing something else.
Jesus is God. Full Stop. This text says the same Jesus is the God who appeared on Sinai giving the Torah to Moses and who appeared to him in the burning bush. Take off your shoes in the manger in Bethlehem: you are standing on Holy Ground.
Now. What does this mean for us here in Advent 2020?
This has been quite a year, has it not? So many people have said that that it’s now a cliche. Shrug. 2020, you know? It is an excuse, a way to step away from events and just kind of laughed them off – even as we are crying inside, dying a little bit each time we shrug. I won’t lie: this year has sucked. I cannot help but think of the Holy Prophet Job, minding his own business when all his children were killed, all his flocks stolen, all his goods destroyed, and his health vanished. And this all at the permission of God. Then Job’s “friends” show up and say, “Well, you must have done something to anger God or he wouldn’t have done this to you.” (With friends like this, who needs enemas?) Job is quite sure he has done nothing. So are we – the readers – for we know even God was bragging about how righteous Job was. And Job was a gentile!
We read Job recently in our chapter of Dominican Laity and I was struck as I was reading: so often Job is pushed forward in homilies or in liturgical readings as a sort of answer for why is there evil. But, really – having read the book end to end – there is no answer to these sorts questions, in fact the book sort of un-asks them. Rather than provide an answer it says – baldly – “Bad things happen. Who are you to ask questions like this?”
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (as he then was) points this out in his Introduction to Christianity:
Trust God – things happen.
Rumbling around on this Advent verse and on Job (since I’ve just read it) and on 2020, it’s come to me that I do not understand “evil”. By “evil” (in quotes like that) I do not mean the mystery of human sin – so evident at literally every turn. I mean what we call evil every day: a family member’s death, a war, a disease, a political loss or victory, an oppressive law, a murder. Yes, some of these can be sins, per se, but that doesn’t make them evil. They are the result of human failings. Certainly the “problem of evil” cannot hinge on this rephrasing: “If God is Good and Loving and All Powerful then why are humans stupid, meddlesome, and selfish?” Or worse: “If God is Good and Loving and All Powerful then why are some humans able to do things I do not like?” To be honest I think that second line is what “evil” usually means: things I do not like, things that make me uncomfortable, things that make me feel bad, things that make me want to yell, “LET ME TALK TO THE MANAGER!”
Karen, honey…. that impulse itself… bless yer heart: that’s the real evil.
That’s saying – like Job does: “How DARE you?”
Jesus is God. Full stop. Corollary: you are not God. Full stop.
What’s up with 2020 then?
The Bible – including the Book of Job – is filled with the answer to this question. Yes, the world is broken: we learn this in the first few chapters of Genesis. It’s broken because we did it. You surely can see this if you look out your window. We did this the first time we tried to be God on our own terms and shattered the whole crystal. The resonances are broken and nothing is tuned quite right.
But that did not disempower God who is still omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent – and living in your heart even if you don’t pay him any mind. The Holy Patriarch St Joseph says of his slavery in Egypt, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” (Genesis 50:20). Even when people intend evil, it works out for good in God’s providence. St Paul says “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28). Sts Paul and James tell us to rejoice in all things and to make thanksgiving (the Greek is literally, “make eucharist”) in all things. The Eastern Church says, “Glory to God for all things”. It can sound like a sucky irony, but it’s the literal truth.
This Baby, in this manger, this one that cannot defend himself, feed himself, that needs his fundament cleaned by his parents when he does the necessary, this one is God.
And you are not.
Give up your mania for judging everything. Let go. It’s all good. Can you trust him?
Great O Antiphons, Advent 2020
– O Sapientia (11/15)
– O Adonai (11/20)
– O Radix Jesse (11/25)
– O Clavis David (11/30)
– O Oriens (12/5)
– O Rex Gentium (12/10)
– O Emmanuel (12/15)
– O Virgo Virginum (12/20)
This wiki article explains the Great O Antiphons and also why I have eight in my practice rather than seven.