Hand of God leedsacukThe ancient tradition of O Antiphons has characterised Vespers recited between December 17 and December 23, during the Octave before Christmas Day.

The Bible readings for these seven days help us to meditate on the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Together, the first letters of these traditional meditations spell SARCORE, which is the reverse of the Latin phrase ero cras, which means

I shall be [with you] tomorrow.

The Bible verses of SARCORE express the following:

  1. “O Sapientia, quae ex ore altissimi…” (O Wisdom from on high…)
  2. “O Adonai et dux domus Israel…” (O Lord and leader of the house of Israel…)
  3. “O Radix Jesse qui stas in signum populorum…” (O Root of Jesse who stood as a standard of the people…)
  4. “O Clavis David et sceptrum domus…” (O Key of David and scepter of our home…)
  5. “O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae…” (O Dayspring, splendor of eternal light…)
  6. “O Rex gentium et desideratus…” (O longed-for King of the nations…)
  7. “O Emmanuel, rex et legifer noster…” (O Emmanuel, our king and law-giver…)

Today’s verse pertains to ‘E’.

My verse last year, taken from ‘The O Antiphons’ page of Hymns and Carols of Christmas, was Isaiah 7:14 (emphases mine):

14Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Another verse for December 23 is Isaiah 33:21:

But there the Lord in majesty will be for us
    a place of broad rivers and streams,
where no galley with oars can go,
    nor majestic ship can pass.

December 18: a second O Antiphon for this day examined Isaiah 33 in more detail. In summary:

Isaiah 33 relates the eventual defeat of the Assyrian army and their king, known for his violent acts and treacherous dealings. As Judah recovered their dependence on God for their salvation, He gave them the strength to bring down their conquerors.

Isaiah prophesied that Jerusalem would emerge triumphant over her enemy once her people had returned to God. Verse 21 speaks of a city which is inviolable. The use of ‘broad rivers and streams’ is figurative here, as Jerusalem has only Kidron brook.

Matthew Henry’s commentary explains:

Jerusalem had no considerable river running by it, as most great cities have, nothing but the brook Kidron, and so wanted one of the best natural fortifications, as well as one of the greatest advantages for trade and commerce, and upon this account their enemies despised them and doubted not but to make an easy prey of them but the presence and power of God are sufficient at any time to make up to us the deficiencies of the creature and of its strength and beauty. We have all in God, all we need or can desire. Many external advantages Jerusalem has not which other places have, but in God there is more than an equivalent. But, if there be broad rivers and streams about Jerusalem, may not these yield an easy access to the fleet of an invader? No these are rivers and streams in which shall go no galley with oars, no man of war or gallant ship. If God himself be the river, it must needs be inaccessible to the enemy they can neither find nor force their way by it.

In other words, the prophet — and the repentant people — hoped for the glory and power of God to run through Jerusalem forevermore, making her unattainable to her enemies.

In the same way, we may consider our Lord Jesus Christ as our ‘broad river and streams’, as His presence is always with us, strengthening us against our enemies.

What a friend and protector we have in Him! May we be forever faithful and thankful!

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