Day 2: O Adonai (O Lord)

Tonight’s O Antiphon is “O Adonai,” which means “O Lord,” and is one of the Divine titles used in the Old Testament.  Because the name YHWH was considered too sacred to even speak, pious Jews would often replace the Name with Adonai, meaning Lord, instead.  In Isaiah 33:22, the prophet Isaiah says:

For the Lord is our judge,
the Lord is our lawgiver,
the Lord is our king: he will save us.

He uses the word YHWH there, but it would have been spoken as Adonai.  Bear that in mind when reading Isaiah 11:1-5, and its promise of the coming Messiah.  Again, I’ve bolded the relevant part for today’s Antiphon:

Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse,
And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him,
The spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The spirit of counsel and strength,
The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
And He will delight in the fear of the LORD,
And He will not judge by what His eyes see,
Nor make a decision by what His ears hear;
But with righteousness He will judge the poor,
And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth;
And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.
Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins,
And faithfulness the belt about His waist.

In other words, Isaiah is promising that the coming Messiah will do the things that Adonai does, serving as Judge (John 9:39), King (Luke 23:3) and Lawgiver (Matthew 5:21-48).  Jesus fulfills each of these (as the Scriptures I just cited to show), as we’ll see more clearly at the Final Judgment (Revelation 19:15-16).

All of this points to something even more radical: the coming Messiah would be the Lord, Adonai, God Himself.  The New Testament shows us clearly  how this was fulfilled (Philippians 2:5-11):

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  

Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

St. Paul is referencing another part of Isaiah (Isaiah 45:22-23), in which God Himself says:

Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth;
For I am God, and there is no other.
I have sworn by Myself,
The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness
And will not turn back,
That to Me every knee will bow,
every tongue will swear allegiance.

By applying this passage to Jesus, St. Paul is making it pretty clear that Jesus Christ is not from God, but IS God.   He IS Adonai, YHWH.

The traditional Latin Antiphon is:

O Adonai, et dux domus Israel,
qui Moyse in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

Which means, in English:

O Adonai, and ruler of the House of Israel, Who didst appear unto Moses in the burning bush, and gavest him the law in Sinai, Come to redeem us with an outstretched arm!

It corresponds to the third verse from O Come, O Come Emmanuel:

O Come, O Come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height
in ancient times didst give the law,
in cloud, and majesty, and awe.

And the English version used in the Antiphon today:

O Sacred Lord of ancient Israel,
Who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush,
Who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain:
Come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.

And finally, here are the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars in Oxford singing the Latin plainchant:

This series was initially posted in Advent 2011.

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