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 cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
which you fashioned from clay.
O Antiphon, December 22
Reflection – So we return today to the theme of Christ as king, the king of the nations. What does this title add to what we have already prayed. We prayed to the Root of Jesse to establish his authority over the kings of the earth, and to the Key of David to set us free. What particular prayer, what hope do we bring to the King of the Nations?
It is to be made one. The nations go each their own way, and the world is ravaged still by violence and war. Even when there is a measure of peace, there is little trust, little sense of the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God.
The English don’t like the French. The French don’t like the Americans. The Americans don’t like the Russians. The Russians don’t like the Chinese. I won’t here go anywhere near the mare’s nest which is the Middle East, or the terrible conflicts that rack the various nations of Africa. If Canada is largely ‘liked’ it is because Canada is too small and insignificant to pose any great threat to anyone. We can be ignored.
O King of the Nations, indeed. Do we even want to be one? It seems that for a great part of mankind, it is still the better course to hunker down in our little tribal allegiances and despise everyone else. This happens between nations, and within nations it happens along political, ethnic, socio-economic and (yes) religious fault lines.
The right despises the left. The left despises the right. Rich and poor continue to be the great two solitudes living radically different lives within the same city bounds. Racial, ethnic, and religious tensions ran high in 2013 in many places. People have died because of their tribal identification, religion, race. The unity of the human race, the coming together of all people as one, has taken quite a beating in 2013.
O King of the Nations, come. It is my firm belief that Jesus Christ, and only Jesus Christ, has the grace we need to overcome the terrible wounds of division, suspicion, hatred that constantly threaten to overwhelm the human race. I do realize that, to those who do not believe in Jesus, that sounds like just one more divisive statement. Jesus can become just one more fault line separating brother from brother.
I realize it must seem that way to a non-Christian. But I believe, nonetheless, that there is power in the Name and in the Person of Christ that is the healing of the nations and can effect the reconciliation and peace we so need. I even go so far as to believe firmly that this reconciliation and peace happens as we are all brought into the one communion of the Catholic Church. I know it is politically incorrect and perhaps offensive to say so, but that is my firm conviction—God wishes to make us all one by drawing us to His Son Jesus and thus into the Church he founded.
What is really needed here is a new creation. That is why we pray for the King to save the human race which He fashioned from clay in the beginning. In the beginning, there was no division. In the beginning, we were just ‘man’, not white, black, brown, left, right, and so forth. In the beginning, God created the human person, and He made us to be one family, a true brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of God.
This was lost by our rejection of that fatherhood, and from Cain and Abel down to today’s headlines of bloodshed, we’ve been killing each other and breaking the family of man ever since. We need a new creation.
I believe that this is what Jesus alone offers to us. And this is why we must continue to proclaim the Gospel of Christ, even if we are accused of being divisive, intolerant, exclusive, obnoxious. The King of the Nations is our only hope, and so we simply must continue to preach His Gospel.
Of course these O Antiphons make it clear to us that ultimately Jesus Himself has to come and save us. We can work for peace—we must do this—and strive to love our neighbors and reach out to heal the wounds of history and the wounds our own sins have caused. Yes, always. But ultimately the healing of the nations and the unity of the human race will come only when the King comes on the clouds of heaven.
It is prayer and longing, not social action and charity, that will ultimately bring the human race the peace and the unity we need so badly. And that is the whole substance of our Advent prayer: Come Lord Jesus, for we need you so very badly. Amen.