Day 10: Tuesday

Tuesday, Day 10

 

Beginning on December 17, as the final phase of preparation for Christmas, the Church, since ancient times, has recited these “O Antiphons” during Vespers of the Liturgy of the Hours as a window through which to view the Magnificat, the Canticle of Mary, which comes after in the liturgy. Each one describes an aspect of Christ, the one for whom we wait during Advent, as prophesized in the Old Testament. The Benedictine monks, who first arranged these antiphons, did so with a definite purpose. If one starts with the last title and takes the first letter of each one: Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapienta, the Latin words “ero cras” are formed, meaning “Tomorrow, I will come” And so he does.

 

Today’s O Antiphon for December 22 is:

 

O King of the Gentiles and the Desired of all, you are the cornerstone that binds two into one. Come, and save man whom you fashioned out of clay.

 

Isaiah 28:16: “Therefore, thus says the Lord God: See, I am laying a stone in Zion, a stone that has been tested, a precious cornerstone as a sure foundation”.

 

Ephesians 2:14: “He it is who is our peace, and who made the two of us one by breaking down the barrier of hostility that kept us apart”.

 

The earlier antiphons have already alluded to the Messiah coming not only to Israel but to convert the gentile nations and redeem them for his own. Now this sixth antiphon clearly addresses the savior as the king of the gentiles (Jer.10:7) and the Desired One of the nations. The Messiah is the cornerstone on whom our spiritual foundations are laid, but on whom unbelievers stumble (Matt. 21:42). This cornerstone unites and binds Jew and gentile into one, making peace between them.

 

The plea is that God save all humanity, all his creation that he formed from the dust of the earth (Gen.2:7).  and the extent of the promises (since the world began v.70). This reveals a mind made clear.
  • How does Christ, who breathes new life into us, give us, like Zachariah, a “Mind made clear”?

 

Jesus’ teachings, as well as His Person, His Promises, and His Power have inspired artists like Raphael, Michelangelo and Leonardo de Vinci to paint glorious scenes; he has inspirited the hearts of Dante and Milton and Donne to erupt in poetic verse; and the greatest music and songs of the ages came from those whose lives were touched by Christ: Haydn, Handel, Bach, and Mendelssohn, all, composed to the praise of Jesus Christ. Some have argued that Jesus Christ changed Mendelssohn’s music from a minor key to a major key.
This is the picture of what happened to Zechariah. The music of the Lord invaded his soul. It is the music of wonder and joy and freedom when the Word of the God comes in power to announce that salvation is at hand.

 

  • Consider what God is showing you about the music of wonder and joy and freedom, which is the Life Abundant God offers you. Are you allowing his music to invade your soul? Can you, like Zachariah, take advantage of the Silence of the Season to quiet your heart enough to hear the music playing? As you ponder this in your heart, what blessing comes to mind? Note this in your journal.
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Annunciation of the Angel to Zachariah, Dominico Ghirlandaio, 1490, Fresco, Florence
Yesterday we explored the first theme in Zachariah’s song, that of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which is the context for what follows. Today, we will consider the second theme, a splendid one: the act of benediction, for which Zachariah’s canticle is named. What is a benediction?   It is the bestowing of divine blessing given in the Bible. It represents a joyful, unifying call to faith, patience, and practice for the faithful, based on the Certainty, divine Principle: God. It voices images of protection, or comfort, or abundance, or some other word of assurance.

 

The word benediction means to say good, to voice good thoughts, to pronounce. What makes good thoughts good is that they are based on Truth, based on Principle, God. Whatever is true fulfills itself. Good is the inevitable result of the certainty and righteousness of Truth, God, who is all good. The reading aloud of a benediction is joy expressed, and cherished, and shared with all in its hearing. It is a feast. It is the essence of genuine, heartfelt joy and commitment, seen in the exalted light of spiritual interpretation.   It is part of “the meal” that blesses all.

 

A benedictus has its Hebrew counterpart in the prayer of berakah. formula of blessing or thanksgiving, recited in public or private, usually before the performance of a commandment, or the enjoyment of food or fragrance, and in praise on various occasions. The function of a berakhah  is to acknowledge God as the source of all blessing. Berakhot also have an educational function to transform a variety of everyday actions and occurrences into religious experiences designed to increase awareness of God at all times. Berakah is a sacramental approach to life, seeing God in the course of our lives.
  • How does this sacramental approach to life invite the music God wants to play in our hearts?
  • How might you embrace this approach in your own life? Note this in your journal.

 

Jewish usage of this blessing included two primary objects of the blessing: God Himself, and a meal. In Luke’s Gospel, God and meal unite sacramentally in Christ’s institution of the Eucharist. Thus, in the same way that Zachariah blesses the Lord God of Israel in Luke 1:68, and Simeon takes up the child Jesus and blesses God in 2:28, so Jesus as a grown man is blessed riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, a sacrificial victim on his way to the altar: “Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38).

 

Jesus uses the same word in blessing the bread at the Last Supper (Matt. 26:26, Mark 14:22), and again in Luke 24, he uses it in the blessing of the bread at Emmaus. It is in this moment that Christ’s identity is revealed to the two disciples: “And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight” (24:30-31). After Christ’s ascension, his followers continued his practice of blessing bread, and blessing God. Indeed, Luke closes his Gospel with words describing this action: “And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen” (24:53).

 

  • Consider how Zachariah’s time of silence was the bestowal of a great blessing that opened his eyes. How might you use the time of Advent to allow God to bless you in this way and invite his music to play in your heart?
  • How has God opened your eyes by praying Zachariah’s prayer? What comes to mind? Note this in your journal.
  • How does this new sight change how you will live and what you will do for the life of the world?

 

Prayer:

Acknowledge God as the source of all blessing and ask him to grant you the grace of “eyes made clear” so that you might see his hand at work in your life and that this breath of new life might invade your soul and transform your spirit.