Today’s antiphon, recited on December 18th, is called “O Adonai”.
O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,
who to Moses in the flames of the burning bush appeared,
and to him in Sinai the law provided:
Come and redeem us with with arms outstretched
As with all O Antiphons, many references have been attempted to be tied back to the prophecies in the book of Isaiah, but as we see several references to Moses and the Law today, it is no surprise we will go back to Genesis passages for the different elements of this Dec 18th O Antiphon.
The word that is undoubtedly the most unfamiliar to most is the use of “Adonai”. I am definitely not a Hebrew scholar and if my senior pastor, who does bear that title, ever reads this, I am sure I will receive the necessary input. So I’m going out on a limb and will do my best with the resources I have at hand.
Adonai is the plural form of the Hebrew word Adon, which is used to refer to a master of a household or ruler in the Old Testament. A good example is Genesis 45:8 where Joseph refers to himself as “lord of all his house” (Adon kol huw’ beyn). According to my NASB Hebrew dictionary, Adon and its variants are used more than 300 times in the Old Testament, yet only a little over 30 are in reference to God, often in combination with the more familiar word Jehovah. Hence it usually translated as lord (lower capital), except where it refers to God and is translated as Lord (capital L) when combined with Jehovah. A good example of that combination can be found in Genesis 15:2 where Abraham addresses God with “O Lord God” (Adonay Yâhovah) or Psalm 8:1 “Lord, our Lord” (Yâhovah anachnuw adon). Consequently I could have translated the first line of the antiphon as follows, but I decided the keep the word Adonai.
O Lord and leader of the House of Israel
So now to the Scripture references for this particular antiphon. Considering there are no references to the deuterocanonical works, we won’t have to differentiate between a Roman Catholic and Protestant interpretation, which is always nice.
O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel, (Ps 8:1 and Matt 2:6)
who to Moses in the flames of the burning bush appeared, (Exod 3:2)
and to him in Sinai the law provided: (Exod 20)
Come and redeem us with with arms outstretched. (Jer 32:21)
With regards to tying the prophecies back to Isaiah, which several scholars have attempted, Isaiah 11 and Isaiah 33 are referenced by Fr. William Saunders, but I personally find it a bit of a stretch.
More significant, in my humble opinion, is that after yesterday’s antiphon glorified the wisdom and the Word of God which spoke creation into existence, we travel to the next big revelation of God to us. The giving of His law which will eventually be fulfilled in the coming of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.
As we count down the days, we are reminded that after the creation, God provided us with the law, which more than anything else shows us our fallen state and that we can never be made righteous by obeying the rules and regulations set forth by Him. It points to the ultimate revelation that we will need more than the law and that only His Son will be able to redeem and restore our relationship with Him.
Tomorrow, we will start to see how God starts to put that plan in motion.
I hope you are enjoying this little escapade in old Christian liturgy. Until tomorrow when we delve into the Root of Jesse.
Ackowledgements and for more information:
Fr, William Saunders, What are the “O Antiphons”
Catholic Culture: The O Antiphons
The Crossroads Initiative: The great “O Antiphons of Advent”
Image courtesy of Catholic Culture
Bible dictionary: Thomas, R. L. (1998). New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek dictionaries : Updated edition. Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc.