Looking Up

ORex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.
O King of the nations, and their Desire; the Cornerstone, who makest both one: Come, and save mankind, whom thou formedst of clay.
– English from Divine Worship: Daily Office

THE word gentium, Latin for “nations”, is the source of our word “gentiles”. It is the translation of the Hebrew word for nations, גּוֹיִ֔ם, goyim. A singular nation “goy” is Hebrew (and Yiddish) slang for a singular non-Jew, a goy. So, legitimately, this Antiphon can be called “King of the Gentiles” and I think it’s actually more correct to do so, even if it’s politically incorrect. “Goyim” is not always a polite word in some ways (often used as a derogatory) but it is also the Biblical Word for those of us not part of the Jewish Faith. There’s Israel… and then there’s the goyim- everyone else. This antiphon says that the coming Messiah, the King of the Jews, is also King of the Gentiles, מלך הגויים, Melech haGoyim. The Promised One of Israel is, some how, the unification of the one major division in the Hebrew World: us and them. In Messiah, there is no longer an us and a them there is only us.

if the whole point of the Old Testament Law is to set up a peculiar people, distinguished from everyone by their practices and culture, their religion and traditions, then this verse is a huge paradigm shift. Either it means “the whole world will become Jewish” or else it means “Judaism was important for a time but now it’s not”. In the case of the first option, clearly that has not happened because of Jesus. Sadly the second option is usually taken up by Christians of all flavors. It is also condemned by the Church. The place of the Jewish People in God’s plan is always active (CCC ¶839). There must be something else going on.

Another way to read this history is that God created a people in order to reveal himself to them, that he could then use them to reveal himself to the world, long blind to his presence. Thus the Covenant was intended to form the people, but the imporant part of it was the people. Once the people were formed – and once the world was ready – then the Messiah, revealing all of God’s presence in fullness, could be born to the world in order to heal all divisions, including the one that made his birth as possible.

Returning to the problem of evil, though, we love to make “us” and “them” at nearly every turn. God plays a long game. The end goal is salvation – a restoration of the communion between God and all men (always allowing that some men will reject this). The goal has never been to ban bacon, or to get everyone circumcised, or even to get everyone to avoid meat on Fridays. God works though things that seem bad (to Israel) and things that seem bad (to us) but the end goal is not a new Temple, or even a new Church. The end goal is man’s communion with God. God’s willing to use anything to bring this about – even destruction. “….God wills to see the religious and political institutions of Israel destroyed, like the master builder who destroys the scaffolding that now does no more than conceal the definitive building…” (from  God and His Image: An Outline of Biblical Theology by Dominique Barthélemy, OP.) God’s restoration of our communion with him is the only good that actually is.

The King of the Goyim and Israel is the cornerstone uniting both into one, not just Jews and Gentiles, but also God and Man.

This is why, as I mentioned last time, this is our Faith (the ground of our reality). It is also the source of our Hope. No matter how sucky things get, no matter how much we want to call things evil here, our Hope says God’s will be done. And that will is always for the one Good that there is in our sin-ridden world: salvation. Because we are clay we are not able to do anything on our own. We freely submit to the Cross Christ gives us today, here, and now in order that we may be resurrected in his glory. Because he is the King of All, he has the power to do this.

This is our Hope: that something that can never be taken away.

Author: Huw Raphael

A Dominican Tertiary living in San Francisco, CA. He is almost 59. He feeds the homeless as a parochial almoner and is studying to be a Roman Catholic Deacon. He is learning modern Israeli Hebrew and enjoys cooking, keto, cats, long urban hikes, and SF Beer Week.

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