O Adonai (18th December)
O Adonai, et dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et
ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.
O Adonai, and Leader of the house of Israel, who appearedst in the bush to
Moses in a flame of fire, and gavest him the Law in Sinai: Come and deliver
us with an outstretched arm.
"Adonai" means "Lord" and is the name used in the Jewish tradition for God.
The divine name, spelt with the consonants JHWH, was probably pronounced
"Yahweh"; however, it came to be considered too holy to pronounce at all,
and the Masoretic vowel-signs for the word Adonai were attached to the
consonants. This was a signal for the reader to say "Adonai" rather than
"Yahweh" when reading aloud. The convention was misunderstood by some
(though not all) of the reformers, who combined the consonants of JHWH and
the vowels of Adonai to create the quite novel word Jehovah.
Our antiphon, then, identifies Christ very directly with the God of the Old
Testament, who appeared to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3) and gave him
the Commandments on Mount Sinai (Exodus 20).
The phrase 'domus Israel', 'house of Israel'; is used many, many times in
the OT as a name for the Hebrew people, and also a few times in the NT.
The phrase 'in brachio extento', 'with outstretched arm' is characteristic
of the Book of Deuteronomy in describing God's mighty act of delivering
Israel from bondage to the Egyptians; cf. Deut. 26:8, 'et eduxit nos de
Aegypto in manu forti, et brachio extento.'
The O-Antiphons therefore begin by associating Christ with God in Creation:
he is the Sapientia, Wisdom, who was with God and was God in the beginning,
without whom nothing was made; in other words, with the God of Genesis.
Then they move on to associating him with the God of the Exodus, which in
the NT itself is regarded as a type of Christ's redeeming passion (cf. Luke
9:30-31, the Transfiguration: 'And behold, two men talked with him, Moses
and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his Exodus, which he was to
accomplish at Jerusalem.')
Several more of the antiphons compare the redemption wrought by Christ with
deliverance from situations of imprisonment or slavery mentioned in the OT.
Curiously, none mentions the Exile in Babylon, which is alluded to so
plainly in the first verse of our Latin hymn:
Veni, veni, Emmanuel, O come, O come, Emmanuel,
captivum solve Israel, Redeem thy captive Israel,
qui gemit in exilio, That into exile drear is gone
privatus Dei Filio. Far from the face of God's dear Son.
That allusion is down to our hymnographer; and a happy and creative enough
allusion, it seems to me.