O Emmanuel

And so we come to the last of the O Antiphon days – O Emmanuel.o antiphons symbols

The great Advent hymn has a refrain that reiterates the main point that all the heavens and earth proclaim – God with us. Perhaps the greatest curse of the fallen universe is the delusional logic that concludes, “God is absent or distant.” God’s separation from us is a hateful illusion. As a result of sin and death, we may be in a broken relationship with God, but it is a broken relationship. We may not be on “speaking terms” with God but God continues to be present among us and to speak to us – making His appeal in a variety of ways. Indeed, He is in a mysterious sense, more present than ever as a result of our sin because of His great love for us and desire that none should be lost (1 Timothy 2.4). When we were in grievous danger God made His presence known to us “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” (Hebrews 1.1-2).

Martin Laird, writes compellingly of the never-absent and radically ever-present and ever-pressing God:

… this God we seek has already found us, already looks out of our own eyes, is already, as S. Augustine famously put it, “closer to me than I am to myself.” “O Beauty ever ancient, ever new,” he continues, “you were within and I was outside myself.”

People who have traveled far along the contemplative path are often aware that the sense of separation from God is itself pasted up out of a mass of thought and feelings. When the mind comes into its own stillness and enter the silent land, the sense of separation goes. Union is seen to be the fundamental reality, and separation a highly filtered mental perception…. “For God alone my soul in silence waits.” (Psalm 62:1,6) (Into the Silent Land, pg. 8, 10, by Martin Laird, Oxford University Press, 2006.)

There is no such thing as “God absent.” To sing such a refrain would be absurdity itself. And yet, that is the refrain of the hymn of sin and death. Such singing, such behavior, is typical of those who we call “God” but who is not God but an idol. The proof that what we call “God” is not, in fact, God, can be summed up using a line from a Don McLean song, “American Pie.” Although he is not referring in any sense to God, the behavior pattern makes the point,

And the three men I admired most
The father, son, and holy ghost
They caught the last train to the coast
The day the music died.

Has the “God” we worship, “caught the last train to the coast?!” If so, he is not God. He is an imposter.

The feast of the Nativity is the once and for all, defining revelation; the unveiling in a unique and essential manner (incarnational), of what has been true all along – God is with us ! ! God with us, in our midst, while we continued to rail against Him, and spit on him, and scourge Him, and crucify Him, He is in our midst, providing for us – loving us. The Divine Liturgy reminds us and challenges us to proclaim, “Christ is in our midst. He is and ever shall be.”

O Emmanuel ! !

But, this is not enough according to God. It is not enough for God to become man. What?! Yes, it is not enough.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, says, in Article 460:

The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature”: “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.” “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.”

According to St. Irenaeus in the Preface of Book 5, of his Against Heresies:

In the four preceding books, my very dear friend, which I put forth to thee, all the heretics have been exposed, and their doctrines brought to light, and these men refuted who have devised irreligious opinions. [I have accomplished this by adducing] something from the doctrine peculiar to each of these men, which they have left in their writings, as well as by using arguments of a more general nature, and applicable to them all. Then I have pointed out the truth, and shown the preaching of the Church, which the prophets proclaimed (as I have already demonstrated), but which Christ brought to perfection, and the apostles have handed down, from whom the Church, receiving [these truths], and throughout all the world alone preserving them in their integrity (bene), has transmitted them to her sons. Then also—having disposed of all questions which the heretics propose to us, and having explained the doctrine of the apostles, and clearly set forth many of those things which were said and done by the Lord in parables—I shall endeavour, in this the fifth book of the entire work which treats of the exposure and refutation of knowledge falsely so called, to exhibit proofs from the rest of the Lord’s doctrine and the apostolical epistles: [thus] complying with thy demand, as thou didst request of me (since indeed I have been assigned a place in the ministry of the word); and, labouring by every means in my power to furnish thee with large assistance against the contradictions of the heretics, as also to reclaim the wanderers and convert them to the Church of God, to confirm at the same time the minds of the neophytes, that they may preserve stedfast the faith which they have received, guarded by the Church in its integrity, in order that they be in no way perverted by those who endeavour to teach them false doctrines, and lead them away from the truth. It will be incumbent upon thee, however, and all who may happen to read this writing, to peruse with great attention what I have already said, that thou mayest obtain a knowledge of the subjects against which I am contending. For it is thus that thou wilt both controvert them in a legitimate manner, and wilt be prepared to receive the proofs brought forward against them, casting away their doctrines as filth by means of the celestial faith; but following the only true and stedfast Teacher, the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who did, through His transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself.

According to St. Athanasius in Section 54 of his classic work, On the Incarnation:

As, then, if a man should wish to see God, Who is invisible by nature and not seen at all, he may know and apprehend Him from His works: so let him who fails to see Christ with his understanding, at least apprehend Him by the works of His body, and test whether they be human works or God’s works. 2. And if they be human, let him scoff; but if they are not human, but of God, let him recognise it, and not laugh at what is no matter for scoffing; but rather let him marvel that by so ordinary a means things divine have been manifested to us, and that by death immortality has reached to all, and that by the Word becoming man, the universal Providence has been known, and its Giver and Artificer the very Word of God. 3. For He was made man that we might be made God and He manifested Himself by a body that we might receive the idea of the unseen Father; and He endured the insolence of men that we might inherit immortality. For while He Himself was in no way injured, being impossible and incorruptible and very Word and God, men who were suffering, and for whose sakes He endured all this, He maintained and preserved in His own impassibility. 4. And, in a word, the achievements of the Saviour, resulting from His becoming man, are of such kind and number, that if one should wish to enumerate them, he may be compared to men who gaze at the expanse of the sea and wish to count its waves. For as one cannot take in the whole of the waves with his eyes, for those which are coming on baffle the sense of him that attempts it; so for him that would take in all the achievements of Christ in the body, it is impossible to take in the whole, even by reckoning them up, as those which go beyond his thought are more than those he thinks he has taken in. 5. Better is it, then, not to aim at speaking of the whole, where one cannot do justice even to a part, but, after mentioning one more, to leave the whole for you to marvel at. For all alike are marvellous, and wherever a man turns his glance, he may behold on that side the divinity of the Word, and be struck with exceeding great awe.

Christ is the Light shining in the midst of the darkness, not alongside it ! ! AND, we are to be the light shining in the darkness, not alongside it – He in us and we in Him as one by the action of His grace ! !

I have already provided several resources for your fruitful reflection on the theme of “God with us.” But, here are even more to help you continue on your pilgrimage to the Christmas crèche, where you and I along with all the other pilgrims can affirm the radical proclamation of God’s faithfulness – He has, is, and ever shall be in our midst.

Fr. Thomas

———————-

Veni, Veni Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Refrain:
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, thou Wisdom from on high,
who orderest all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go. Refrain

O come, thou Rod of Jesse, free
thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
from depths of hell thy people save,
and give them victory over the grave. Refrain

O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death’s dark shadows put to flight. Refrain

O come, thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heavenly home;
make safe the way that leads on high,
and close the path to misery. Refrain

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height
in ancient times once gave the law
in cloud and majesty and awe. Refrain

O come, thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
an ensign of thy people be;
before thee rulers silent fall;
all peoples on thy mercy call. Refrain

O come, Desire of nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid thou our sad divisions cease,
and be thyself our King of Peace. Refrain

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear. Refrain

Latin, Com­bined from var­i­ous an­ti­phons by an un­known au­thor, pos­si­bly in the 12th Cen­tu­ry
trans. John Mason Neale (1818-1866), 1851

O Emmanuel – English: O Emmanuel, God with us, our King and lawgiver, the expected of the nations and their Savior: come to save us, O Lord our God.

Some Relevant Scripture Reference:
Isaiah 7:14; 8:8
Matthew 1:23
Haggai 2:7

Relevant verse of Veni, Veni Emmanuel:
O come, o come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.

Micah 5.1-4
[1] Now you are walled about with a wall; siege is laid against us;
with a rod they strike upon the cheek
the ruler of Israel.
[2] But you, O Bethlehem Eph’rathah,
who are little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose origin is from of old,
from ancient days.
[3] Therefore he shall give them up until the time
when she who is in travail has brought forth;
then the rest of his brethren shall return
to the people of Israel.
[4] And he shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD,
in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
to the ends of the earth.

Psalm 80
[1] Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
thou who leadest Joseph like a flock!
Thou who art enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
[2] before E’phraim and Benjamin and Manas’seh!
Stir up thy might,
and come to save us!
[3] Restore us, O God;
let thy face shine, that we may be saved!
[4] O LORD God of hosts,
how long wilt thou be angry with thy people’s prayers?
[5] Thou hast fed them with the bread of tears,
and given them tears to drink in full measure.
[6] Thou dost make us the scorn of our neighbors;
and our enemies laugh among themselves.
[7] Restore us, O God of hosts;
let thy face shine, that we may be saved!
[8] Thou didst bring a vine out of Egypt;
thou didst drive out the nations and plant it.
[9] Thou didst clear the ground for it;
it took deep root and filled the land.
[10] The mountains were covered with its shade,
the mighty cedars with its branches;
[11] it sent out its branches to the sea,
and its shoots to the River.
[12] Why then hast thou broken down its walls,
so that all who pass along the way pluck its fruit?
[13] The boar from the forest ravages it,
and all that move in the field feed on it.
[14] Turn again, O God of hosts!
Look down from heaven, and see;
have regard for this vine,
[15] the stock which thy right hand planted.
[16] They have burned it with fire, they have cut it down;
may they perish at the rebuke of thy countenance!
[17] But let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand,
the son of man whom thou hast made strong for thyself!
[18] Then we will never turn back from thee;
give us life, and we will call on thy name!
[19] Restore us, O LORD God of hosts!
let thy face shine, that we may be saved!

Hebrews 10.5-10
[5] Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings thou hast not desired,
but a body hast thou prepared for me;
[6] in burnt offerings and sin offerings thou hast taken no pleasure.
[7] Then I said, `Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God,’
as it is written of me in the roll of the book.”
[8] When he said above, “Thou hast neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law),
[9] then he added, “Lo, I have come to do thy will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.
[10] And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Luke 1.39-45
[39] In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah,
[40] and she entered the house of Zechari’ah and greeted Elizabeth.
[41] And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit
[42] and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!
[43] And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
[44] For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy.
[45] And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”

Today is the commemoration of St. John of Kanty. From all the reading I have been able to do, he is an icon of light in the midst of darkness; a bearer of the fruit of the Spirit. More can be learned about him here and here.

Sources:

http://www.catholic.org/clife/advent/advent.php?id=7

http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.toc.html

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf204.toc.html

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s