Every year, for the past 7 (one was missed) St. Dominic Parish holds ‘An Evening with the O’Antiphons’ a celebration of the ancient and great antiphons that proclaim Christ in different aspects of his being. Seven deacons from the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois are given one of the antiphons and they can reflect as they are moved to. This year I was given ‘O Emmanuel’
We arrive at the final O’Antiph0n, which in the hymn is put first; the antiphon that is, in a certain way the hermeneutic, the key, for the others; the antiphon that proclaims why we can proclaim in the first place; the antiphon that gives us the reason for this soon-to-come epiphany of love Christmas. O Come Emmanuel! O Come God-with-us.
God could have just ignored us, left us to ourselves. The Psalmist sings: ‘When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you set in place – what is man that you are mindful of him, and a son of man that your care for him?’ (Ps 8:4-5) but He didn’t ignore us. God could have saved us in any fashion that He desired. He could have just willed it, spoken a word and it would be done; we didn’t need to know anything about Him – but He didn’t. God, He who is beyond our comprehension made Himself known. God, He who is inexplicable, who we are incapable of describing, came to be among us – became visible. He, the great Total Other made Himself small so that we might interact with Him and allow ourselves to be raised towards Him. He who is Love allowed love, in its fullest, to be reachable, attainable, by those whom He loves.
We have been given a face and body, a brother who makes real and tangible Wisdom; who reveals what Lordship is about; who gives meaning to why our past is important and what it means to us, who brings the light of hope and the desire of all nations. We don’t have to think in abstracts for He isn’t abstract – He is among us – He is Emmanuel. St. Paul in his letter to the Philippians almost sings to us:
“Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself…”
We have a Lord who desires our intimacy more than our intellect. So God comes among us and reveals to us the incomprehensible so that, as St. John says in his first letter ‘We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.’ God among us, Emmanuel, has come to broaden mankind’s horizon of love by giving us the peace and joy of being loved.
What joy! What supreme and intense joy we have when we contemplate what inspired these O’Antiphons. Not as words or lofty ideas (as Pope Benedict XVI wrote) but as gifts from God our Father given to us by God our brother, given to us by Emmanuel.
We should be driven by our joy to pass forward the proclamation of the angel to the shepherds: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”(Luke) Our gift to God, for His gift to us, should be absolute love – self-giving love – to those He loves. We should celebrate the gift of Bethlehem by re-gifting. Like our Blessed Mother we should everywhere and always point to her Son. We should make our own her gift to God, her fiat – we should herald Emmanuel.