December 23 – O Immanuel – I Am the Bread of Life

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 Immanuel

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster,
exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.
O Immanuel, our King and Lawgiver,
The One Expected of the nations, and their Saviour,
Come and save us, O Lord our God
(Translation from Benedictine Daily Prayer: Liturgical Press)
Today we come to the last Vespers before the feast of the Incarnation. The Antiphon, O Emmanuel, is the briefest, and yet the most breathtaking in its scope. In holding together those things which in our human frailty we cannot begin to conceive of as other than antithetical, more so even than ‘King’ and ‘Shepherd’
Immanuel, ‘God with us’, we know from its root in Isaiah, is a sign of the one who ‘is coming with judgement to save us’. [Psalm 50, one of the great Advent Psalms expresses this as the prayed Word of God] And thus also of an imminence beyond our senses and comprehension of The Transcendent One. He who Is Other, whose ways and thoughts are most assuredly Not ours comes to dwell amongst us.
In this simple Antiphon, all the Antiphons coallesce and find a home as the Hope of the Nations comes to us.
Jesus in his ministry amongst the Pharisees creates the same indigestible possibilities. ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’
Almighty and eternal God With Us – the Judge who comes to Save us – who commands ‘unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of man, you will have no life within you.
Advent, primarily is about Faith. Faith makes us Expectant. Faith is the midwife of Hope. Faith causes us to Watch, to Wait, to Listen, to Strain our senses to catch the first rays of the rising dawn. By Faith we acclaim Christ as King of the Nations, the Lord of All. By Faith we Know him to be The Way to the heart of the Father, the Wisdom which at once describes and IS all of Creation in its plenteous goodness.
And by faith we now come to the Great Feast – where we feed on him in our hearts by faith. It is when we assent to these apparent impossibilities that our eyes are opened and we See and are healed.
Amen. Come Lord Jesus

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