Friday, December 24, 2010

Friday of the Fourth Week of Advent

(II Samuel 7:1-5.8b-12.14a.16; Luke 1:67-79)

The Church aids our reflection on the mystery of the Incarnation by presenting different titles for Jesus on the seven days before Christmas Eve. The titles comprise the kernel of what are commonly called the “O Antiphons” sung at Evening Prayer and echoed in the “alleluia” acclamation before the gospel reading at Mass. Someone has cleverly noticed that the first letters of the Latin titles given backwards, beginning with E for Emmanuel on December 23, form the acrostic ERO CRAS, which means “I will be tomorrow.” Tomorrow we will celebrate Christ’s being with us as a human being, a gift which might take our breath away.

The titles of the “O antiphons” in the order of the acrostic run as follows. E is for Emmanuel: Jesus is literally “God-with-us.” R is for Rex: he is the king who will care for our needs. O is for Oriens: Jesus comes as the dawn bringing the light of truth. C is for Clavis: he holds the key of David to heaven’s door. R is for Radix: Jesus comes from the root of Jesse, a royal pedigree assuring capability. A is for Adonai: he is the Lord God of Israel who loves the poor and oppressed. And S is for Sapientia: Jesus dispenses wisdom to assist us on the earthly sojourn.

We are encouraged to attend midnight mass on Christmas Eve. The reason for mass at midnight goes deeper than waiting for the clock to officially toll the beginning of a new day. Jesus promises to return “like a thief in the night” and asks his disciples to stay awake in vigilance waiting for him. Beyond dining and exchanging Christmas presents, we should pray and perhaps reflect again on the titles of the “O antiphons” as we await his presence at mass in the middle of the night.