Come Emmanuel

by Andrew Lunn.

The ancient ‘O Antiphons’, which we know through the hymn ‘O come, o come, Emmanuel’, provide a series of reflections on the One we wait for.  The text, which came to be associated with the seven days leading up to Christmas Eve, and used as the antiphons for the Magnificat, goes back possibly earlier than 500 AD.  Through the various titles of Christ the tradition formed as acrostic, another shorter text hidden within the Antiphons.  The acrostic was a poetic form used in a number of the Psalms.  In this case the playful hiding and revealing is apt for these seasons of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany: Advent as the time of waiting for that which is not yet fully known; Christmas, and especially Epiphany, as the season of revealing.  God remains for us one who is revealed, known and intimate, and at the same time, one who is hidden, mysterious and numinous.  In this case the hidden text has to be read in reverse: Sapienta (Wisdom), Adonai (Lord of might, law-giver), Rex gentium (King of the nations), Clavis David (Key of David), Oriens (Morning star), Radix Jesse (root of Jesse), Emmanuel (God with us).  This spells Ero Cras, meaning ‘I will … tomorrow’, with the verb for us to insert, possible ‘I will come tomorrow’, or ‘I will be with you tomorrow’.  For my main reflection I’m offering my own acrostic poem, sparked off by reflections on the ancient hymn.

Come Emmanuel

(inspired by O come, o come Emmanuel)

Entropy: as deep space, hard and cold

to human sense, yet sparked with stars and light –

millions on millions – yet only one can hold

or harbour life.  A jewel in the dark, bright

mirrored, receives a gift, a life, a child.

Mothered: eternity’s day-star would write

a letter on her soul, (and when he smiled

or cried, she knew his face, his voice, echoed

nature’s source) who she would see reviled,

racked as he took to heart our human load.

Utterly weak he comes into the world,

rich in humanity.  This true child showed

each one of us that we are known, heard,

owned, our longings met in deepest giving.

Love’s language is revealed.  Hope is the Word.

When he comes our ends become beginnings.

2 thoughts on “Come Emmanuel”

  1. ‘Entropy’ as in information theory?

    Only one can hold or harbour life? We can’t know that – I prefer Sidney Carter’s take in ‘Every star shall sing a carol’

    This poem resonates, Andrew -but there’s more to it than I have extracted. I haven’t cracked the code.

    Do you know Jim Cotter’s little book on the O Antiphons?


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