Tuesday, December 18, 2007

18 Decembris -- O, Adonai

O Adonai, and Leader of the house of Israel, who appeared in the Bush to Moses in a flame of fire, and gavest him the Law in Sinai: Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.

The second of the "O" antiphons is sung today at Vespers.

"Adonai" means "Lord" and is the name used in the Jewish tradition for God. The divine name, spelt with the consonants JHWH, was probably pronounced "Yahweh"; however, it came to be considered too holy to pronounce at all, and the Masoretic vowel-signs for the word Adonai were attached to the consonants. This was a signal for the reader to say "Adonai" rather than "Yahweh" when reading aloud. The convention was misunderstood by some (though not all) of the reformers, who combined the consonants of JHWH and the vowels of Adonai to create the quite novel word Jehovah.

Our antiphon, then, identifies Christ very directly with the God of the Old Testament, who appeared to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3) and gave him the Commandments on Mount Sinai (Exodus 20).

A disappointment: each day of the year Vatican Radio broadcasts sung Vespers from one of various convents or monasteries in Europe, usually in Rome I'm told. I was rather looking forward to the singing of the "O" antiphons. But now for two days in a row they have recited it.