O Adonai: O name too holy to speak

Yesterday I blogged about the 1st of the great O Antiphons of Advent and explained how these sung responses to 'Mary's Song' are used during the last week of the 'run up to Christmas'.

Today's antiphon is O Adonai.

Adonai is usually translated as 'Lord'. It stands for the personal name of God, revealed to Moses, represented by 4 consonants (YHWH) in the Hebrew scriptures and considered too holy to be spoken.




One English translation of the O Adonai antiphon is:
"O Adonai and leader of the House of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and gave him the law on Sinai:
Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm."
Another translation has the last line as 'come and set us free'.

A more generally known version is this verse from the Advent hymn 'O Come Emmanuel':

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times did'st give the Law,
In cloud, and majesty and awe.


The Bible verses on which the O Adonai antiphon is based are Exodus 3:2; Exodus 24:12; Isaiah 11: 45; Isaiah 22:22

Rob Marsh SJ has written a thoughtful reflection on the O Adonai antiphon in the light of his personal feelings about Brexit, the US election and the shells and shrapnel in Aleppo and the call from the heart,
"O Adonai! O Lord of might. Come and fix this mess!"
He thinks about the way Moses' encounter with the burning bush reveals a God who comes to set us free. For Moses it was clear that this was to be freedom from slavery. Rob Marsh asks "What am I crying for freedom from?" He sees that we should be careful what we pray and wish for. His article ends:
"When the bush that burns but is not burnt catches Moses’ eye there is curiosity; when a voice speaks from it there is awe and fear; when Adonai lays out his desires Moses starts wriggling for dear life. He evades and struggles because Adonai, who has seen and heard all that is broken, intends to send Moses to do the mending. 
There’s the catch in praying ‘O Adonai’: we call upon the mighty hand of God to set us free, hoping for cloud and majesty and awe, and what we hear back is ‘Yes, I already know and I already care and want you to do something about it’."

Here, to aid your reflection, is the O Adonai antiphon sung in Latin by the Cantarta Regensburg.





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