18th December - O Adonai

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18th December - O Adonai

Dominican Nuns Ireland
Published by Dominican Nuns Ireland in Reflections (Other) · 18 December 2022
Tags: Advent
In a few minutes we will sing the second great ‘O’ antiphon in Latin, just before the Magnificat. The translation in our breviaries reads:

O Adonai, and leader of Israel, you appeared to Moses in a burning bush, and gave him the law on Sinai. O come and save us with your mighty power.
These short poetic lines of the O Antiphons in general, have a mindfully expectant tone, addressing Christ by different titles and imploring him to come. Unlike the first antiphon “O Sapientia” which addresses Christ by a cosmic, universal title, O Adonai is a more personal, relational title, related specifically to the house of Israel - the Jewish People

"Adonai" is Hebrew for "my Lord” and was substituted by devout Jews for the name "Yahweh", out of pure reverence.

This antiphon recalls the whole narrative of the exodus of the Hebrew people, the house of Israel, from the land of Egypt where they dwelt as slaves. It mentions Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush, in which he received the call to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt. It mentions his receiving of the Law – the 10 Commandants -on Mount Sinai, where the people camped after they had escaped pharaoh’s army. It is within this context that the title “Adonai” gets its significance.

God identified himself as the God of Moses’ ancestors, but when Moses asked him what his name was, God answered him: “I am Who I am.” God also told him a name — YHWH — and said, “This is my name forever” (Ex 3:15). This mysterious name ‘Yahweh’ was long considered by the Jews too sacred to pronounce, and in later manuscripts, including the Greek Septuagint translation, and even in the later specifically Christian Latin Vulgate, instances of the Holy Name — YHWH — are often replaced with the lofty title Adonai, or LORD. Though Adonai doesn’t capture the majesty and mystery of the personal name YHWH, which is probably related to the Hebrew verb hayah (to be, to exist), it does communicate that the intimate revelation of this name to Moses and to the house of Israel indicates a Lordship of God over “his people”, a phrase used countless times in the story of the Exodus alone.

This Lordship was a deeper revelation of God and a closer relationship for the Hebrews than had been the case for their ancestors — for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

In Exodus 6:2-3, we read the following lines:
“God spoke to Moses and said to him, ‘I am the LORD [YHWH]. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name, the LORD [YHWH], I did not make myself known to them.”

It is Adonai, the Lord, who reveals himself personally, who rescues “his people” from slavery with “mighty power,” and who gives them a guiding law. And it is Adonai, the ruler of the house of Israel, who would reveal himself in time even more fully — not only in name, but in the flesh — as Jesus Christ, who came to save us by redeeming us from our sins.

But Christ, Adonai, is not only the Lord of the Hebrews; he is Lord of all. And this is the key to the promises made regarding Abraham’s offspring, that through that offspring “shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen 22:18). Christ is that offspring (Gal 3:16). The house of Israel was set apart from all peoples not merely for their own sake, but for the sake of the world, so that they might prepare the way for the incarnation of God; that their Lord might become everyone’s Lord; that the one true God Almighty who revealed himself to this nation might be revealed to all nations.

This has already begun through the Word being made flesh and dwelling among us. The revelation about the true Adonai has begun to spread, from Jerusalem, to all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. But until that project is fulfilled and the Lord is finally revealed as he is, and every knee bows to him and every tongue is compelled to confess that he is Adonai, Christians go on inviting him again and again to come into our hearts. We ask him to come and show the strength of his arm like he did in Egypt, and to “save” us from the sins and passions to which we are still enslaved.

We ask for the grace to delight in the law of the Lord, the law given at Sinai and summed up in Christ. We ask that we may bear the consuming fire of Christ in our hearts without being destroyed by it (Heb 12:18-29). And in all humility, we remember that to call Christ, Adonai means that we are to actually follow him, and to bear witness to Him by every thought, word, and deed– by our whole way of life.

O Adonai, and leader of Israel, you appeared to Moses in a burning bush, and gave him the law on Sinai. O come and save us with your mighty power.


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