OEmmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.
O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Desire of all nations, and their Salvation: Come and save us O Lord, our God.
– English from Divine Worship: Daily Office
As was mentioned earlier, 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. So, this antiphon sings of God as the Savior of the Gentiles, the desire of the Gentiles… and then says (we are all one) come and save us! The verse sings of Emmanuel, “God With Us” – with both Jew and Gentile. How is God with us? Let’s start with the Catechism.
“All that Jesus did and taught, from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven”, is to be seen in the light of the mysteries of Christmas and Easter.
Jesus’ words and actions during his hidden life and public ministry were already salvific, for they anticipated the power of his Paschal mystery.
We like to focus on Christmas as if it’s different from Easter as if the Death of Jesus on the Cross is it’s own thing. We look at the “blood sacrifice” as the real deal and everything else is prelude or aftermath. But the Catechism makes it clear that everything Jesus did was our salvation in process. Jesus is God before his birth no less than on the Cross or at the Ascension.
In the eastern Churches, they sing on 25 March – the Annunciation – “Today is the beginning of our salvation.”
Today is the beginning of our salvation,
The revelation of the eternal mystery!
The Son of God becomes the Son of the Virgin,
As Gabriel announces the coming of Grace.
Together with him let us cry to the Theotokos:
Rejoice, O Full of Grace, The Lord is with You!
Our salvation is accomplished by the entire movement from the Incarnation (at Mary’s “Yes”) to the Cross and Resurrection, to the Ascension and the Sitting at the Glorious Right Hand of the Father. Yet, it’s not just the great events! The process of salvation moves from zygote and foetus, through the birth canal of the blessed mother; from the first gasp of a baby’s crying and dirty diapers, to teenage acne and a changing voice; from burping and flatulence to cleansing one’s self and a runny nose, from every other part of life.
See: there is nothing – except sin – that you can do now that God has not done. Since God has done it himself, every option becomes a sacrament of our salvation.
When humans were the children of Adam and Eve, the first day of death was the day of brith. No matter what we did – sin or virtue, faithful or faithless – it led directly to the grave. And yes, while God is always merciful, death was the end as far as we knew. From the time we failed in the garden to the day of Judgement all we knew was that every womb opened on a tomb, every cradle tipped into a grave, and nothing could stop that.
Now, God has done this with us: and the grave opens to Life. It is possible to open every part of our life – except sin- to the mediated action of God living with us, as one of us.
This Christmas, as we look into yet another year of Covid, as we peer into a future we do not know, we have two choices: fear or God with us.
We are commanded to “take up our cross and follow Jesus”. What can that mean? None of us are facing capital punishment, none of us are facing death at the hands of civil or religious authorities. But we know our crosses and, as mundane as can be, they are our. When you wake up in the morning do you pray like Jesus about work? “Father, let this cup pass from me…” or school bullies, “Father, let this cup pass from me…” Do you pray about someone smelly on the bus, “Father let this cup pass from me.” Do you find yourself dreading yet another Zoom meeting or going home to an empty apartment? “Father, if it be Thy will, let this cup pass from me. Yet, not my will, but they will be done.”
All of life – except sin – is our salvation playing out if we will but let it be as God gives it to us. Gond is with us in this! God, at Christmas, gives us our lives to live as one of us. Our imaginations, our loves, our fears, our times, our meals, and our griefs, our daily commutes, our morning coffees are all part of God’s dance with us. The death of our brothers, the murder of our friends, the war, the covid, the collapse of everything that we hold dear… all of it is God’s dance. It begins at Christmas, or better it includes Christmas.
God is one of us. This is the virtue of faith. This is the seventh virtue, the one at our heart. God is one of us, but more than that God is our very beingness: the fire of love that is the Holy Trinity is the fire of our being and we are no longer cut off from who we are and who we are intended to be. This is the very meaning of Christmas. God is one of us. Today Easter begins for everyone.
Life no longer leads to the grave. If you will but let it, it will lead to heaven. That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
God with us! Christ is born: glorify him!