So last week I offered my translation of the first three of the O Antiphons, and today I will share my translation of two more. I’ve been a little free, but not too wild in my departure from tradition. I confess it has been fun for me to read a little Latin again, especially in tandem with the prophecies in Isaiah, whose oracles that spoke to the world of the ancient Israelites but find new meaning in light of the revelation of Jesus as the Messiah. Last week, the antiphons drew heavily on the language of Isaiah 11, but this week we see more of Isaiah 9 and 60 and its reinterpretation in Zechariah’s prayer (Luke 1:68-79) and the visions described by John of Patmos in the book of Revelation. I urge you to keep them handy.
Using a less familiar title for Jesus is this Advent prayer: “O Key of David and scepter of the House of Israel, who opens so that none may lock, and locks so that none may open, come and lead from their prison those who are defeated, who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.” This title is born from Isaiah 22:22, later used in Revelation 3:7 to inspire hope among the people of ancient Philadelphia. Christ the Key will imprison the power of sin and death (Isa. 25:7-8, Rev. 20:1-3), but will set the prisoners of sin free (Isa. 42:6-7, Rev. 1:4-6).
The next prayer uses the image of the sun, a symbol of divine justice common throughout the ancient near east. In particular, the image of a dawning sun praised a new king coming into power as a source of such justice. Biblical prophecy in Isaiah and beyond (Malachi 4:2) employed such terms for God’s Anointed, and Christian poets in turn called Jesus the Daystar, the Morning Star, or Dayspring. “O Rising Dawn, splendor of the eternal light and sun of justice, come and illumine those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.”
We will be praying the O Antiphons at 10am this Sunday. Let yourself steep in their metaphors and consider how they might help you connect with our loving Lord in new ways.