The Advent Antiphons are said or sung before and after the Magnificat at Vespers each evening of the week immediately prior to Christmas. Each one speaks of an aspect of the One who is to come, Israel’s hope and a Light to the Gentiles.
This set of reflections juxtaposes each of the Antiphons with one of the seven ‘I AM’ sayings of Jesus Christ, the embodied Hope of all Creation – the Word made flesh.
In this video, the Dominican brothers of Blackfriars Oxford sing the Magnificat Antiphon, O Adonai
- O Adonai, 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 Ruler of the house of Israel,
- you appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush,
- and on Mount Sinai gave him your law:
- Come, and with an outstretched arm redeem us
- (Translation from Benedictine Daily Prayer: Liturgical Press)
- To be in a Christian is to be in a War. As we are baptised into the life of Christ, the people of our new family, the church exhort us to
‘Fight valiantly as a disciple of Christ against sin, the world and the devil, and remain faithful to Christ to the end of your life’ We had thought that being called into the body of the Church was to than discover ourselves emerging into a place of unadulterated peace, we discover we’ve been thrown into the front line of a conflict we never knew existed. We encounter Christ and find ourselves conscripted in His army and posted back to the place from which we came. We Die, and are made Alive in the same place.We thought faith was no more than a set of ideas – we discover that it is a Life – moreover one in which the Reality of the World’s ongoing resistance to its Lord is revealed and not just ‘out there’, that it runs like a scarlet thread through every aspect of our own lives.And so our new home community, the church blesses us with tools to engage in this ongoing War – not least that of the seasons of Lent and Advent. Over and again as we follow the church Calendar, we come to stations of refreshment, training camps along the way, where we sharpen those aspects of our faith walk which have become dulled. In Advent, we are called to Wake Up! We hadn’t realised that we were fallen asleep, but sin and death have worked their narcotic effect and we need rousing. And at once we realise the conflict – for Advent readings call us Awake in a season which the world has captured for its own, and filled with a myriad of distractions which simply MUST be obeyed. There is no gentle winsomeness in this call. It is Imperatival – Commanding and Imperious. Buy! Buy NOW! Rush! Hurry! Get Ready! Don’t forget all those traditions your family demands at this time of year! There is SO much to do!!Yet this is the culture of Death – it is an overwhelming with thorns and weeds and we must ‘flee to the hills’, with the Abbas and Ammas of old, roused from the sleep which sweeps us away, we make haste for the Desert. And Wait. Wait on that world that raises us from the dead, and that casts us back into the conflict in the strength of The Holy One of Israel.In the days of Christendom, the church having lost sense of its head Ruled with a rod of iron and prescribed the ‘How’ of Advent , under Law, not under gentle yet infinitely winsome Grace. We were Told to Fast and Pray. Perhaps thus, cultural memory being the deep unconscious current which we often swim all too readily with, it is not surprising that we choose not to now, but if we are attentive to the Word, then we will gladly abandon All Things for Him, the Pearl Without Price. Seeking above all, indeed Only to hear His Voice, to See His Fire, to Desire His Life. That somewhat hidden under the mantle of coercion, there was a voice, the Voice of love, like that of many waters, calling us to fast and pray ‘that we enter not into temptation’.The Voice which calls Lazarus from the grave, calls us too. The Fire which captivated Moses on Sinai seeks a home amongst His people. The Life known in and through ‘the glorious battle’ is held out to us all.Let us abandon distractions. Let us Go with Him, Let us go too Him, the one who frees us from our many shroud like captivities. The One who sends us back into Egypt, back to the place of captivity that we might be His instruments of release for others.