O Rex Gentium (22nd December)
O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque
unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.
O King of the Nations, and their desire; the Corner-stone, who makest both
one; Come and save mankind, whom thou formedest of clay.
The key text here is Haggai 2:8, 'Et movebo omnes gentes, Et veniet
Desideratus cunctis gentibus' 'And I shall shake all nations, and the
Desired One will come to all nations.' Haggai is a prophet writing at the
time of of what is called the Restoration, that is, the return of the Jews
to the holy land after the exile in Babylon, the rebuilding of the temple
and the restoration of public and religious institutions. As Haggai writes,
these things do not yet amount to much, but he forsees a time when the glory
of the restored temple with exceed that of Solomon's original building.
Christians see this prophecy fulfilled in Christ.
The phrase 'Rex Gentium' I have not found exactly, but cf. Psalm 2:6-8,
Ego autem constitutus sum Rex ab eo
Super Sion, montem sanctum eius,
Praedicans praeceptum eius.
Dominus dixit ad me: Filius meus es tu;
Ego hodie genui te.
Postula a me, et dabo tibi gentes haereditatem tuam,
Et possessionem tuam terminos terrae.
'Yet have I set my King:
upon my holy hill of Sion.
I will preach the law, whereof the Lord hath said unto me:
Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee.
Desire of me, and I shall give thee the heathen [i.e. nations]
for thine inheritance:
and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession.'
The corner-stone goes back ultimately to Isaiah 28:16,
Ecce ego mittam in fundamentis Sion lapidem,
Angularem, pretiosum, in fundamento fundatum;
'Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious
This is quoted at 1 Peter 2:6. St Paul at Ephesians 2:20 also refers to
'ipso summo angulari lapide Christo Iesu' - 'Jesus Christ himself being the
chief corner-stone.' In context, Paul explores the meaning of this image as
referring to the Jews and Gentiles as it were coming to God from two
directions, and meeting in Christ, as two walls meet and join in the
corner-stone. 'Who makest both one' refers to Ephesians 2:14, 'qui fecit
'Quem de limo formasti' derives from Genesis 2:7, 'Formavit igitur Dominus
Deus hominem de limo terrae.' Again Jesus is identified with the God of
Creation, the God of Genesis.
A number of texts have been combined to produce a coherent theology: Christ
is the Lord of all nations, both Jews and Gentiles, as a corner-stone
supports both walls; he is the agent through whom both were made, and will
lead both to a destiny greater than anything in their previous existence.