During the final seven evenings of Advent, which begin on December 17, the antiphons for the Magnificat during evening prayer all begin with ‘O’ followed by a different name for the Messiah. The various names for the prophesied Christ originate from the book of Isaiah the prophet, to whom we hear from mostly during the Advent Season. As a group, these antiphons are known as the O Antiphons. The most common Advent hymn, O Come Emmanuel, is a hymn variation of these seven names of the Messiah. Yesterday, we covered the third of these antiphons, the O Radix Jesse antiphon. We will spend the next four evenings looking at the remaining antiphons each in turn as we journey toward Christmas Day.
December 20: O Clavis David antiphon (AKA O Key of David antiphon)
O Key of David, opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom: come and free the prisoners of darkness!
Isaiah Reference: And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David. He shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. (Isaiah 22:22)
This chant (heard here or in the video below) likens the Christ to a key, of the lineage of David, which will open the gates of eternity, freeing us from our darkness. Isaiah prophetically notes that it is He who has dominion over this gate’s opening and closing.
Gates are designed to keep someone out or let someone in. They are by their nature, divisive: one side eternal, the other side being finite. This seems to make Christ into a sort of gatekeeper, an image I would gladly replace with that of key holder, who would more than gladly shine eternal light of His love should we ask.
As we near Christmas, I see this key turning the gates of selfishness, entitlement, and greed into a paradise of selflessness, humility, and generosity. The prisoners of darkness are freed by our smiling at a stranger, laughing with a friend, and embracing a loved one, not only at this Christmas time, but always. The gate might close again, but through our being the light of Christ, we’ll find that we’ve had the key this whole time. And as one who loses his keys almost daily, I find this reassuring.