Today’s antiphon, recited on December 22nd is called “O Rex Gentium”.
O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,
quem de limo formasti.
O King of the people, and the desire of them,
And stone of the corner, who makes multiples one
Come and save men,
Whom from clay you formed.
As we get closer and closer, after all we only have one O Antiphon left after today, the title of Christ is now elevated to “King of the people” and “Cornerstone”.
Christ is quite often referred to as our King or Prince of peace all throughout Scripture. Not in the least in one of the most famous prophetic passage out of Isaiah 9:6
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
In the book of Iaiah alone, we find many, many references to God as our King (Isa 33:22, Isa 43:15, Isa 44:6). With reference to Christ, we can read Zechariah 9:9, which we know is a prophetic passage with regards to Christ’s triumphant entry in Jerusalem.
I know I translated the second verse quite literally as “Stone of the Corner” to make the alignment to the Latin text more apparent, but we are all familiar with Christ’s references to himself as the “Stone that the builders rejected which has now become the cornerstone”. (Mt 21:42, Mk 12:1, Lk 20:17), which are in turn a direct quotation from Ps 118:22
22 The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
23 This is the Lord’s doing;
it is marvelous in our eyes.
The last verse of the antiphon is a direct reference of course to Genesis 2:7, reminding us we are formed out of clay and are God’s creation.
Yet the verse that spoke most to me is the second part of the first line. “desideratus earum”. One could translate this as “Object of our desire” or “What we long for”. And I couldn’t help myself asking if in this Chritmas season Christ’s coming is really what I long for ? Or do I long for that new iPad, the new flatscreen TV ? Or in my personal case, perhaps that wonderful 10th anniversary edition of the collected works of J.S.Bach ?
Speaking of which, even Bach, undoubtedly one of the greatest composers in musical history, wrote a Cantata to remind us to worship Him in “Heart and Speech and Action and Life” (“Herz und Mund un Tat und Leben”, BWV 147). And exactly from that wonderful piece we get one of our most beautifull chorales that we play a lot this time of year. I include a link to a YouTube below, but it should remind us. Is Christ really the “Joy of our Desire” ? Let’s continue to remember that as we approach the final days before Christmas
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