Who are Our Kings?

Cathedral St. Peter (Dom St. Peter), Worms, Germany - Tympanum - Tree of Jesse

Tree of Jesse. St. Peter’s Cathedral, Worms, Germany

The third O Antiphon, which will be chanted tonight at Vespers at monasteries around the world:

O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.

Who are our kings?

It’s not our politicians. They simply represent our wishes. They write our laws, but they do not rule over us. Our rulers are violence and greed. Together, they feed our multibillion dollar defense industry, our multibillion dollar entertainment industry, our multibillion dollar gun industry, and our multibillion dollar prison industry.

And it’s only when a horrible tragedy befalls us, when too many innocent children die at one time to ignore, that we stop and pay attention.

But it never lasts. Our “kings” won’t shut their mouths for long. They never have.

O Root of Jesse, deliver us . . . from us:

December 19

 Advent calendar graphics by Oh My Gluestick. They are intended for personal use only and may not be used commercially.

An Outstretched Arm

God appears to Moses in the Burning Bush

Image: Saint Issac’s Cathedral, St. Petersburg

The second of the O Antiphons, which will be chanted tonight at Vespers at monasteries around the world:

O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and gave him the law on Sinai:
Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.

When I read this prayer, I think about all the times I reach over to my daughter and take her hand as we cross a street or a parking lot. I do it instinctively, and she usually reaches out to me instinctively as well. My outstretched arm gives her a sense of safety and security.

We all need that sense of safety and security, and whenever an unspeakable tragedy strikes we lose it. We need that outstretched arm, and when it’s so noticeably absent we ask “why?”

It’s one of those things we don’t think about until it’s missing, and don’t pray for until we miss it.

O Adonai, come and redeem us with an outstretched arm:

December 18

 Advent calendar graphics by Oh My Gluestick. They are intended for personal use only and may not be used commercially.

Seven Prayers

Medieval Latin Codex

Incipit page of The Wisdom of Solomon from the Codex Gigas (Image: Podlažice Monastery)

This is the last full week before Christmas, and it is a particularly difficult one for all of us. We are in mourning and we are in shock.

I’d planned a series of posts this week on the O Antiphons: the prayers that will be chanted each night this week at Vespers in monasteries around the world in anticipation of Christmas. These prayers take on a  new poignancy this week.

The first, sung tonight, is for wisdom:

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other,
mightily and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

For in the midst of a cacophony of voices, each claiming to have the answer to all our problems, we need wisdom more than ever. The kind of wisdom not found in easy answers, trite platitudes, or cheap political slogans. We need the wisdom that comes only through serious thought, reflection, and prayer.

The O Antiphons are also the basis of the Advent carol O Come, Emmanuel. So each day this week, I’ll be posting a different rendition of this carol (via YouTube). May it serve as both a litany and a memorial:

December 17

 Advent calendar graphics by Oh My Gluestick. They are intended for personal use only and may not be used commercially.