O Antiphon | December 20
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 Key of David,
opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom:
come and free the prisoners of darkness!
Continuing yesterday’s theme, today’s antiphon once again refers to the ancestry of the Messiah. It was always an important part of the Messianic prophecy that the coming Savior be part of the House of David, and this antiphon reminds us that Jesus fulfilled this promise.
For the ancient Jews, the expectations of the Messiah were grand. They imagined a great ruler coming to save them with the immense power they associated with kings. In Jesus, they got this savior—but this Messiah was one of gentleness, compassion, and mercy. This was difficult for them to accept, and even John the Baptist entertained doubt. Yet, as the antiphons remind us, there was nothing about ruthless power promised in the Messianic prophecies. The elements that the prophecies did contain about lineage were fulfilled by Jesus. As Isaiah said, “I will place the Key of the House of David on His shoulder; when he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open” (Isaiah 22:22).
Today’s title of Jesus, “Key of David,” reinforces the idea of the gentle Messiah. A key fits perfectly into a lock and opens it without undue force. It quietly does the job it was created to do. Jesus, too, acts as a key, peacefully opening the way to God’s kingdom for His people. We can imagine that the keyhole lets in a glimmer of light to the people in darkness; but when Jesus unlocks the door, all the light comes flooding in.