OAdonai, 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 appearedst in the bush to Moses in a flame of fire, and gavest him the Law in Sinai: come and deliver us with an outstretched arm.
– English from Divine Worship: Daily Office
IN THE HEBREW SCRIPTURES when the Four-Letter Name of God is written, it is not pronounced. The reader will say “Adonai” or, outside of the scriptures, he will say “Ha Shem” meaning, “the Name”. In time even “Ha Shem” became so sacred that if it is being used outside of a sacred context (such as as a concert in a secular hall) the word is obscured by a contraction pronounced as “Kado’shem” from”Kadosh Shem” meaning “Holy Name” (but in Hebrew it would be “Ha Shem Ha Kadosh” so this is an interesting construction, itself). In most English translations this tradition is continued. When the Four-Letter Name is used, the English will, most often, say “the LORD” rather than “the Lord”. My own favorite translation, the Jerusalem Bible, comes right out and says “Yahweh” but the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, urged Catholics to avoid that out of respect for the Jewish tradition so the current edition of the JB says “The Lord” instead. I prefer my old-school one from the 1960s. Other Bible translations such as The Complete Jewish Bible make it clear when Adonai is being used to replace The Name. The Name is also used in regular prayers – although it’s obscured by “Adonai” just as noted above. This prayer will be prayed tonight (Sunday 28 November) before lighting one candle for Hanukkah, for example:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ לְהַדְלִיק נֵר חֲנֻכָּה
Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha-olam, asher kidshanu bemitzvotav vitzivanu lehadlik neir shel Hanukkah.
Blessed are you LORD, our God king of the universe, who hast sanctified us by Thy mitzvahs and hast commended us to light the lamps of Hanukkah.
That “adonai” there is hiding the Holy Name.
This tradition is known to the composers of Church Liturgy: calling Jesus here Adonai is naming him by the Sacred Name. This is underscored by the parallel, “qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti” and “in Sina legem dedisti”. It was not some random “Lord” who appeared in the Burning Bush to Moses or who gave the Law on Sinai. Moses was addressing the Burning Bush when he asked, “I am to go, then, to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘the God of your fathers has sent me to you’. But if they ask me what his name is what am I to tell them?” And God said to Moses, “I Am who I Am. This,” he added, “is what you must say to the sons of Israel: ‘I Am has sent me to you’.” And God said to Moses, “You are to say to the sons od Israel: ‘Yahweh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name for all time; buy this name I shall be invoked for all generations to come.” (Exodus 3:13-15, Jerusalem Bible) A footnote comments, “The formula ‘I Am who I Am’ becomes, in the third person, Yahweh, ‘He is'”. In the Greek Septuagint this is rendered as ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν ego eimi ho on, meaning I am the one who is. And so, on icons of Jesus, he bears the greek letters, ὁ ὤν (ho on) meaning “the one who is.”
In the previous post, citing Josef Pieper I noted that prudence was referring to “the whole ordered structure of the Occidental Christian view of man”. Pieper goes on to say this ordered structure is “Being precedes Truth, Truth precedes the Good.” And so, here, Jesus is being cited at the root: the beingness of all creation. We know from the Gospel of John that all things were created through Jesus and by Jesus. Without Jesus was not anything made that has been made. All beingness is rooted in Jesus. Anything that participates in Being has this fire at its center. This fire is a participation in the eternal Trinity (albeit in a mortal, partial way). Pieper says, “Indeed, the living fire at the heart of the dictum is the central mystery of Christian theology: that the Father begets the Eternal Word, and that the Holy Spirit proceeds out of the Father and the Word.” The Thomists would tell us the Trinity lives in our own heart – even though we may not know how to enter there.
And so, as yesterday’s invocation brought us to prudence, Adonai, the fire of being that is the Logos, Jesus, brings us to Fortitude: which is to say the courage that arises from our own heart but not from ourself. It is the courage that comes from reliance on God. As indicated above, tonight is the first night of the Festival of Hanukkah. After lighting the candle for tonight (and so, each night), Sephardic Jews may, according to their custom, recite Psalm 30:
I will extol thee, O Lord, for thou hast drawn me up,
and hast not let my foes rejoice over me.
2 O Lord my God, I cried to thee for help,
and thou hast healed me.
3 O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from Sheol,
restored me to life from among those gone down to the Pit.
4 Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
5 For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
6 As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
7 By thy favor, O Lord,
thou hadst established me as a strong mountain;
thou didst hide thy face,
I was dismayed.
8 To thee, O Lord, I cried;
and to the Lord I made supplication:
9 “What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the Pit?
Will the dust praise thee?
Will it tell of thy faithfulness?
10 Hear, O Lord, and be gracious to me!
O Lord, be thou my helper!”
11 Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing;
thou hast loosed my sackcloth
and girded me with gladness,
12 that my soul may praise thee and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to thee for ever.
This Psalm celebrates God as our deliverer. We can be courageous, not because we are each strong enough or good enough or, Gosh Darnit, because people like us, but rather because God stands with us. In my beingness, God stands with me. This is part of my inherent dignity as a Human, created in God’s image and likeness.
When I wonder at how things are falling apart (as I did in my first post) and then realize the dignity God has given me, I can find the courage, the fortitude to stand – but only in him. This is how we are called forward by Adonai. This is how he comes with an outstretched arm to deliver us.