Thursday, December 24, 2020

 Thursday of the Fourth Week of Advent

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

 The Church has helped us reflect on the mystery of the Incarnation on the last seven days.  For a week it has daily presented different titles for Jesus.  The titles stand at the heart of the “O Antiphons” – “O” for the way each begins.  These are sung in the “alleluia” acclamation at Mass and echoed in Evening Prayer.  It has been cleverly noted that the first letters of the Latin titles given backwards make a statement.  Beginning with E for Emmanuel on December 23, they form the acrostic ERO CRAS.  In Latin this term means “I will be tomorrow.”  Indeed, today at midnight we will celebrate the Son of God’s coming to us as a human being.  This ever-gracious gift should 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: he 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.  Finally, S is for Sapientia: Jesus provides wisdom to assist our earthly sojourn. 

 We are encouraged to attend mass tonight.  The reason for a late-night mass – now seldom at midnight -- runs deeper than waiting for the official toll of December 25.  In the gospels Jesus promises to return “like a thief in the night.” He commands his disciples to stay awake watching for him.  This order should move us beyond dining and exchanging presents on Christmas Eve.  More importantly, we should pray and perhaps reflect again on the titles of the “O antiphons.”  It would be a truly fitting way to prepare for meeting Christ at mass in the middle of the night.