O Adonai Second O Antiphon Reflection 2011

The first of the O Antiphons yesterday was O Wisdom : see reflection on this here and for an explanation of the O Antiphons see here.

The key words used to describe God in the Antiphons are brimming with symbolism and powerful imagery. Even the O word as a starting point is worth reflecting on.

The word O conveys awe, surprise, shock. It pulls me up short before I begin !! 
That's appropriate when I think of today's antiphon when the Old Testament God appeared to Moses in a burning bush. 
The bush was on fire but was not consumed by fire.
How awesome is that ??
God told Moses to do two things. First, He told Moses to keep a distance.

Stop coming closer.

Moses was on his way for an up-close examination of the burning bush when God stopped him short.

Image source link

Second, to show a reverence for God's presence he was told to take his sandals off, because of the immediate presence of God. 

Removing the sandals showed humility, because the poor and needy have no shoes, and servants usually went barefoot. I think too of John of The Cross whose feast we celebrated this week who reformed his Carmelite order and became discalced which means taking off shoes.

The removal of shoes recognized the immediate presence of God.
In many cultures, you take off your shoes when you come into someone's house, and now Moses was in God's "house," a place of His immediate presence. One of the most moving sights I saw when in Morocco was the Muslims taking off their shoes before they entered the Mosque.

Yet, when Christ was at the Last Supper he took his sandals off and washed the feet of his disciples.The holy place of the Old Testament, implying that there is a distance and barrier between God and man is riven through in the New Testament, by Christ's gesture of washing the feet.


The key words of the rest of the O Antiphons are Root, Key, Rising Sun, King of the Nations and finally God with us.... 

It is there in that last O antiphon, the awesome line "God with us "that I am confronted and stunned by the complete contrast between the Old Testament God etched in hard unyielding stone hidden in an Ark of the Covenant and the New Testament God carried in the soft womb of Mary, the Theotokos, the human carrier of the God that IS with us.

When Mary's waters broke to deliver Christ in that one act she breached forever the gap between us and God.

Here was God in the soft vulnerable flesh of a baby we can touch and hold and embrace, that was immediately present to dirty shepherds, sheep, donkeys and wise men.

This intriguing icon shows the pregnant Mary, the Theotokos, surrounded by flames and the prayer below links it with the O antiphon for today

The miracle that Moses witnessed on Sinai in the burning bush
Foretold your virgin childbearing, O pure Mother.
We the faithful cry to you:
Rejoice, O truly living bush!
Rejoice, O holy mountain!
Rejoice, O sanctified expanse and most holy Theotokos!
You showed Moses, O Christ God,
An image of your most pure Mother
In the bush that burned yet was not consumed,
For she herself was not consumed,
When she received in her womb the fire of divinity!
She remained incorrupt after her pure childbearing!
By her prayers, O greatly merciful One,
Deliver us from the flame of passions,
And preserve your people from all harm!

—Kontakion from here

As Richard Rohr says,

"Here was human flesh in male form in all it's fullness and perfection, a true Adonis.

But the way Christ was going to "Lord over us" was never going to be as tyrant king.

God is with us in the here and now and because of his death and resurrection and the greatest gift He gave us before he died, the gift of his body and blood in the Eucharist, we are not separated from him ever again.

When the two disconsolate broken and weary disciples on the road to  
Emmaus after his death were able to recognise Him at the end of their journey in the breaking of the bread, so too can any and all of us every time we go to the table and receive the Eucharist.


O Radix Jesse : O Root of Jesse
O Clavis  David : O Key of David 

O Oriens : O Rising Sun 

O Rex  Gentium:  O King of the Nations 
O Emmanuel : O God is With us

When I started to reflect on the second of the O antiphons I was struck by the difference in wording of some of the translations.

"O Adonai and leader of Israel, you appeared to Moses in a burning bush and you gave him the Law on Sinai.  O come and save us with your mighty power."

or a different translation that does not use the "mighty power" phrase but perhaps a more feminine "with out-stretched arm."

or this one , a sort of hybrid of the two above:

 "Stretch out your mighty hand to set us free."

I don't know if you think these minor differences in wording are that important but then I read Richard Rohr's final lines of reflection on this Antiphon ( see below). 
It does highlight that the words we use to describe Christ are indicative of the way we can be drawn closer or even further away from an experience of the intimacy of Christ in our lives.

Richard Rohr's suggestion that Christ's soul and spirit were "very feminine by almost all cultural definitions" is an intriguing one.
"Today, the second day and letter “A” of the O Antiphons, provides a very interesting word for God—Adonai. It reveals the Jewish contact with Greek culture, and shows how Judaism was clearly interacting with its neighbors. 
The Eternal Christ is daringly called by the name of a Greek god, Adonis! It has actually become for them another word for “Lord.” The Eternal Christ is for early Christians an image of masculine beauty and all human beauty—how we use the word today. 
An extremely perfect male is called an Adonis, someone who “lords” it over all other men. Jesus is indeed such a Lord, though in an unexpected and counter-cultural way!

Jesus is the image of not just male beauty but full human beauty in a male form. He is an Adonis, an Adonai, an Avatar, an Archetype of human fullness and perfection. 
Today, one week until Christmas, we are presented with a clear image and ideal of human fullness and human perfection.

No wonder the most painted image in Western civilization is a woman holding and handing over a beautiful child. In fact, in some Anglican circles, Madonna paintings are not called “madonnas” but “the Incarnation.” 
The amazing fullness of this incarnation is that Jesus indeed has a male body but his soul and spirit are very feminine by almost all cultural definitions."

Fr. Richard Rohr from his Daily Meditations from Centre for Action and Contemplation at www.cacradicalgrace.org


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