O Come all you Faithless...
Seemingly the Benedictine monks arranged the antiphons so that if you take the first letter of each one in reverse order - Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia, they spell “ero cras” – which in Latin means “tomorrow I will come”.
This comes from the time when Christmas Eve was the big celebration of Christ's coming... And indeed in many parts of the world it still is today… Within Britain and Ireland the last vestiges of this is to be found in the Midnight Communion/Mass, which still has an enormous attraction to those who would never normally cross the threshold of a church… Some well lubricated with Christmas spirit… This led one character in the wonderful BBC “Rev” Christmas special to refer to Christmas Eve Communion as “the religious equivalent of a kebab” (do check this episode out – if not the whole series – it will make your Christmas), and frequently it has been said that the only appropriate hymn for this sort of a service is “O come all ye faithless…”
But we’re all faithless, to greater or lesser degrees… Father God alone is faithful… For us to sneer at anyone who regard themselves as regular churchgoers because they go regularly every Christmas, is to display the mentality of the “elder brother” in Jesus’ famous story of the loving Father and his two sons… The Father goes out to meet both of his children, and wants everyone to come in and enjoy the celebration…
Anyway, I hope that you enjoy your celebrations of Christ’s coming… And that you have enjoyed these reflections on the O Antiphons… I said yesterday that maybe I should have a go at translating them. Well, last night in a fit of sleeplessness I did… Here’s my humble offering…
Come, O come, O Wisdom from on high
From you all human foolishness flies;
Breathe your order into chaos as in the beginning
Grant us your vision as you wing your way over all the world.
O come, O come, O Adonai, Our Lord
Who revealed himself to Moses in a burning bush
and gave us the Law through him on Mount Sinai
come with your strong arm to rescue and redeem.
Come, O come, O Shoot from the stump of Jesse,
Before you the rulers of the earth are speechless
To you all the nations will bow in prayer
Come and free us – Hurry to help us.
Come, O come, O Key of David,
The sceptre of the House of Israel;
Release the prisoners from their dungeons
And open the gates to our eternal home.
Come, O come, O Dawn long longed for.
Sun of righteousness, O light of love,
The glory of eternity breaking into time,
Life driving away the darkness of death
Come, O Come, O King of all the nations,
Come to grant our hearts’ deepest desire;
The salvation from strife that comes from you alone
The cornerstone upon which true unity is constructed.
Come, O come, Emmanuel,
God with us – our King and Judge
Our hope and our salvation
Come and rescue us O Lord, Our God.
ERO CRAS – Tomorrow, I come…