Oh dear. The Saint Nick’s Day Fayre is approaching once more (yes, we know Saint Nick’s Day was a while back, but don’t pick holes in the Parish programme please). You might think this is a fun and frolicsome event for the whole family, but you would be wrong. Very wrong.
Not content with trying to poison the congregation by making them fairy cakes, the Vicar is now threatening to embark on a new culinary endeavour and make cookies to sell – yes, sell – to the unsuspecting people of Forton. We all know the Vicar is less than domesticated, and frankly, dear reader, this can only end badly.
Luckily we have found a natty little place on the Internet where it’s possible to enjoy all the fun of the icing without any of the actual getting your paws dirty. In order to recommend this (much safer) course of action to the Vicar, we have embarked on our own little project. Hopefully it will remind her that she is more suited to the Sanctuary than the kitchen. You can view our offering by clicking here.
It’s Christmass Eve, and here at the Vicarage we’re all excited about the coming of Christ tomorrow (and Santa Paws tonight).
But first, back on 17th December, we promised we’d tell you what was so neat about the way the O Antiphons are arranged. Well, those clever Mediaeval bods who put them together clearly had a great deal of prophetic foresight about the arrival of the Blog genre, because they wanted you to get to Christmass Eve and then read the seven titles backwards. If you do, you get this:
The seven first letters spell out two Latin words: Ero Cras, which mean: “I am coming tomorrow.”
Alleluya! Come, Lord, come!
Today’s Antiphon, the last, sums up all six that have gone before it, and the whole meaning of the festival to come: the Christ Child truly is Emmanuel, God with us.
In the person of Jesus Christ, God is with us always and everywhere. Now we look forward to his coming at Christmass.
our King and Lawgiver,
the one whom the peoples await,
and their Saviour:
Come to save us,
O Lord our God.
Today is the penultimate day of the O Antiphons, and the turn of Rex Gentium, King of the Nations. As the days have progressed, the Antiphons have been moving through salvation history. We have seen how the coming of Christ is rooted in Hebrew scripture and tradition, but is good news for all people in all times.
Today is the most explicit of the Antiphons: Christ is for everybody. Following the prophet Haggai, we proclaim Christ as the Desire of Nations. He is able to break down the barriers between people of different ethnicities and backgrounds, and make us one.
O King of the nations,
and their desire,
Cornerstone who makes both one:
Come, and save humanity,
whom you formed from clay.
It’s the fourth Sunday of Advent. Today we light our candle on the Advent Wreath for the Blessed Virgin Mary, and remember how she became a tabernacle for the Lord when she said “yes” to God’s plan at the Annunciation. The celebration of Advent IV is generally considered to be a good thing in the Vicar’s books, but today she’s a little peeved, because it means that her favourite O Antiphon gets somewhat overshadowed. Today is the day we greet Christ as Oriens, the Morning Star. Right at the end of the Hebrew Bible, God declares through the prophet Malachi that “the Sun of Justice” will arise. Christ is the Sun of Justice, who will arise with healing in his wings; he is the bright Morning Star which never sets, shedding light on all creation.
O Morning Star,
Splendour of Light everlasting,
and the Sun of Justice:
Come, and enlighten
those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.
Today we hail Christ as the Key of David. It sounds like a bit of a funny idea to us, but the Key in the Hebrew Bible was a symbol of royal authority, a bit like the sceptre. In Isaiah 22, the Key is taken from a faithless steward and given to a loyal one; some scholars believe it might have been a real ceremonial object. In the Book of Revelation, Christ claims the Key of David for himself.
Keys are signs of authority and responsibility; new Parish Priests receives the Church key as part of their institution ceremony, and all priests by virtue of Apostolic Succession from Saint Peter have the “power of the keys,” the sacramental ministry of absolution (Matthew 16:19).
This Antiphon reminds us that Christ has the power to liberate all people. It’s true both literally, in the case of people and communities living under occupation or oppression, and symbolically, in terms of our captivity to sin. Today we ask Christ to release us from everything that holds us prisoner, and bring us into the freedom of his light.
O Key of David,
and Sceptre of the House of Israel,
who opens, and no-one shuts;
shuts, and no-one opens:
Come, and lead the prisoner out of the prison-house,
who sits in darkness and the shadow of death.
The Antiphon for today addresses Christ as the Radix or Root of Jesse. Jesse was the father of King David, and it was on David’s royal line that the hopes of Israel were based in the Old Testament. The restoration of the Davidic Kingship came to be a byword for the ushering in of a golden age. So Isaiah can write:
“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse … And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him.” (Isaiah 11:1-2)
The Antiphon identifies Christ as the Messiah, the hope of the Hebrew people, who will come to rule the earth with justice and peace. But it also reminds us that Christ shall stand as a sign to the gentes, the non-Hebrew peoples of the world. So Christ, the true Vine, is rooted in Israel and spreads his branches out to every person on earth, of every ethnicity and background. Good news for all people indeed.
O Root of Jesse,
who stands as a sign for the people,
at whom kings shall shut their mouths,
to whom the Gentiles plead:
Come to liberate us, and do not delay.