Wednesday, December 23, 2009

O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum : veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.
O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.
— Great “O” Antiphon of the Canticle of Mary, for Vespers, on December 23rd.

An acquaintance linked to a recording of the Advent song, O Come O Come Emmanuel, and remarked that the singer was Jewish. But how appropriate! Advent is a time of waiting for the coming of the Messiah, as Israel has done for thousands of years.  This song recounts the seven “O” Antiphons of Advent, which are taken from the Old Testament book of Isaiah, and so is appropriate for Jew and Christian alike.

Ancient Israel had hope for a conquering Messiah, who would overthrow the enslavement of the great empires — although they also knew of the mysterious prophesy of the suffering servant. But Christians also wait for the same conquering Messiah — a return in glory of Christ the King who will rule the nations. So faithful Christians and Jews have the same eschatological hope. For a fascinating introduction to this, you may want to listen to audio lectures on the subject by Dr. Lawrence Feingold: click here. An essential key to unlocking the scriptures in this matter is the principle of typology, which was recognized by the ancient rabbis, but which is so often either ignored or inverted today.

We hope for the coming of the Messiah.  But practical men dislike the concept of hope, who think it implies a foolish passivity. But consider its opposite: hopelessness is something so bad that only the most evil of men would desire to impose on their enemies.  Hope is a theological virtue, not a practical one, although it remains essential as its opposite implies. As long as we put all our hope in worldly things, we remain dead in our sin; only if we wait in joyful hope for the coming of the Messiah, can we help make an icon of the heavenly kingdom here on earth.

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