O Antiphon | December 18
From December 17 through December 23, special antiphons known as the O Antiphons are chanted during the Liturgy of the Hours. As Father William Saunders explains, each of the O Antiphons refers to one of the titles of Jesus and the prophecies from Isaiah about the Messiah. During this week leading up to Christmas Eve, we will reflect on the O Antiphons and the scriptural sources that Fr. Saunders has identified.
O Leader of the House of Israel,
giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai:
come to rescue us with your mighty power!
Today’s antiphon calls us strongly back to the Old Testament. We are reminded of the Book of Exodus, when God gives Moses the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. This was a pivotal moment for Israel, and their relationship with the Law would change the entire course of their history. Continuing up to today, for us as Christians, the Law is a crucial part of God’s covenant, and we are called to follow it.
The connection to the Old Law and the House of Israel reminds us of how ancient God’s promise is. Jesus, as the Leader of the House of Israel, fulfills God’s promise to His chosen people Israel, with one important addition: it is not only Israel that Jesus comes to save, but everyone. God reveals His mercy through this saving power.
According to Fr. Saunders, the antiphon recalls two prophecies from Isaiah: “But He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the lands afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips” (Isaiah 11:4-5); and “Indeed the Lord will be there with us, majestic; yes, the Lord our judge, the Lord our lawgiver, the Lord our king, he it is who will save us” (Isaiah 33:22). The picture Isaiah paints is almost a frightening one, and there is indeed reason for fright if we ignore the Law. Yet we also know that Jesus is a gentle king, and one who saves us with great power and great mercy.