Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

`O Come, Emmanuel, Save Us, for You Are Our God'

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

`O Come, Emmanuel, Save Us, for You Are Our God'

Article excerpt

The following reflection is one of a series by Elizabeth West of Harefield, Australia, on the O Antiphons, the alleluia verses from the Liturgy of the Hours traditionally recited during vespers in the latter days of Advent.

Tonight we gathered to pray the last of the O Antiphons. The air we drew into our lungs to give us breath to sing was clean, washed by summer storm and rain. The dust had been laid low, and the atmosphere was clear enough to see the details of the farms across the valley floor. Trees shone, and rocks on the hills opposite gleamed with moisture. It was pure and still in this late afternoon prayer time. No harvesters patrolled the paddocks, and few cars passed. In the apricot tree, a large orb-weaving spider (whose genus bears the grandiose name of Eriphora), was busy weaving her web, and around the vegetable garden, monarch flycatchers flipped and spun in their nightly food drive.

In the quiet, we gathered to pray. "O Emmanuel, giver of a new law to all nations, come and save us, for you are our God," and our voices shook the stillness enough to make Eriphora pause in her weaving. For me, there was a longing in this last antiphon -- sung out against the dying day -- and a recognition of the supremacy of Christ, lawgiver, peace-bringer, heart-healer. We long for a presence among us that can bring us to something we call "home" where we are at one with our own deepest longing.

"You are our God," we sang, "come and save us." Save us from ourselves, from our selfishness, our pride and arrogance, from our self-pity and our self-doubt. Come and save us, Emmanuel, from the fears that hold us prisoners of the dark. Come and save us, give us light.

As the antiphon settled to stillness, the words of Isaiah came to mind: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called `Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace'" (Isaiah 9:6). …

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