Monday, December 21, 2015

Why a Child with Many Names is Much Loved

One of my mother's favorite sayings is that "a child with many names is much loved".  Why is this the case?  Because mom says so, of course!

Why it may be true that we created nicknames for all of our high school and college buddies as some odd sign of affection, there may be other reasons why this Child has so many names. Holy Mother Church spends the seven days leading up to Christmas Eve by sharing ancient titles for our coming Lord, as if the Christ Child is supposed to be most loved. After all, this Child offers a path by which all children can receive the gift of supernatural adoption; he invites people everywhere to the liberating life of spiritual childhood--radical trust in the love of a Father who calls each of us by name.

From December 17th-23rd, these "O Antiphons" are used as the Gospel acclamation at daily Mass and as the Magnificat antiphon in evening prayer. These names offer us different glimpses into the multifaceted identity of the Lord of Lords.

As you reflect on the list below, consider whether there is one that speaks to your heart at this point of your faith journey.  Perhaps it is one that reminds you of a familiar line from a classic Advent hymn; perhaps it is one that offers a renewed perspective on the Promised One, whose path to meet us was prepared from the beginning of time: 


December 17

O Wisdom of our God Most High,
guiding creation with power and love:
come to teach us the path of knowledge!

December 18

O Leader of the House of Israel,
giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai:
come to rescue us with your mighty power!

December 19

O Root of Jesse’s stem,
sign of God’s love for all his people:
come to save us without delay!

December 20

O Key of David,
opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom:
come and free the prisoners of darkness!

December 21

O Radiant Dawn,
splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
come and shine on those who dwell in darkness
and in the shadow of death.

December 22

O King of all nations and keystone of the Church:
come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!

December 23

O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law:
come to save us, Lord our God! 

While I may be biased toward "O Key of David" for nominal reasons (!), maybe this one jumps out because of the Year of Mercy: the Lord is opening new doors, so that we might return wholeheartedly to the Father, and Jesus is literally the key to the operation.

Maybe "O Wisdom" speaks to me since we seem to live in an age which needs a deeper perspective on what is meaningful.  Or perhaps it is "O Radiant Dawn", given Pope Francis' environmental encyclical and the challenge of letting divine light continue to transform our interactions with both nature and God's poor.

Whichever it might be, let's pray that "O Emmanuel," God-with-us, will continue to enter into and transform his beloved creation--one heart at a time.  And my heart first of all!