Thursday, December 20, 2012

20 December -- O Clavis David

O clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel:  qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit:  veni et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris et umbra mortis.

O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel; that openest and no man shutteth, and shuttest and no man openeth: Come and bring the prisoners out of the prison-house, them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death.

The fourth of the "O" antiphons is chanted today at Vespers. This post, like the others in the series, is a re-run from a few years ago. But it's a part of the Advent/Christmas office I'm particularly fond of. This text is taken from Parsch’s “The Church’s Year of Grace”, vol. I:

“The six-pointed star is the Jewish symbol for the shield or key of David. To Jews it is still a symbol of God and His most holy Name. It also was for them a sign of the promised Messiah (star of Balaam [Is this right? Shouldn’t that be ‘star of Bethlehem’? Did Balaam have a star? –jpc-]). It should, then, be perfectly obvious that Christ is the “Key of David,” i.e., the One who opens all the secrets and mysteries of the Old Testament. The scepter implies a true fullness of power over God’s kingdom.

“Reflections. (a) The figure. Substantially the passage is from Apocalypse 3:7, where Christ speaks of Himself as the ‘Key of David, who opens and no one shuts; who shuts and no on opens.’ But there also is a passage in Isaias (22:22) which corresponds almost word for word with our antiphon. The Old Testament text, however, is not messianic; it is directed to the faithful civil ruler whom God supports: ‘I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulder. He will open and no one will shut; he will shut and no one will open.’ The symbol of handing over the keys denotes the conferral of supreme authority. With the keys he becomes chief executive and all his transactions are divinely approved. Evidently St. John borrowed the passage from Isaias and applied it to Christ, a precedent followed by the liturgy. The antiphon puts additional stress on Christ’s power by adding the title: ‘Sceptre of the house,’ or better, ‘over the house of Israel.’

“(b) Exegesis. . . . . .

“Lastly, the petition in our antiphon is somewhat more extended than on previous days. Christ holds the keys to the prison where Satan keeps men enchained. Through original sin mankind languishes in prison; redemption includes deliverance from this imprisonment. The antiphon describes it very realistically: Captive mankind sits in darkness and in the black shadows of death. Imagine an ancient prison (they called it a ‘lion’s den’). May Christ the Redeemer, we plead, unlock this prison, He has the key. May He convert the countless pagans whom Satan still holds captive; may He loose the bonds of sin and show sinners the rising light of Christmas. And are there no passions, no evil enticements from which He must free me?”