O Emmanuel

December 23, 2022
Source: District of Asia

This title is the one that expresses most perfectly what Christ is to us: "God-with-us." It was used for the first time by Isaias in the memorable announcement which according to tradition, foretold the virgin-birth of the Messiah: "Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel" (Is. 7:14).

Petition: The grace to believe in the Love, which is about to manifest Itself as love for man; and the grace to return love for love.

I. O Emmanuel

"O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver; O Long-awaited Saviour of the nations of the earth.'

No title is more appropriate for the Word of God made man. For ages it had been the boast of Israel that there was "no other nation so great, that hath gods so nigh them, as our God is present to all our petitions" (Dt. 4:7). And yet, how far away from them Jahve was! High above them on the top of Mount Sinai, amidst thunder and lightning! How much closer to us is He whose coming we are now awaiting! His favourite name for Himself will be "the Son of Man" that is exactly what He is in the mystery-laden meaning of the name: That is what He became in the womb of His Virgin Mother, Mary Immaculate (according to Isaias it is the Virgin Mother herself who calls her Son "Emmanuel"). The prophet further says, "For a is born to us, a Son is given to us" (Is. 9:6). In the Ave Maris Stella we express it, thus:

"Show thyself our Mother:
Offer Him our sighs
Who, for us incarnate,
Did not thee despise."

He, who through Mary became "God with us", will remain so for ever. During more than thirty years He dwells visibly, audibly, tangibly with us; He associates with everyone, He preaches the glad tidings to all, chooses apostles and trains them, founds His Church. And when His visible sojourn among us comes to an end, He crowns it by a miraculous prolongation: He institutes the Holy Eucharist as a memorial of His departure in the role of our Victim and at the same time as a divinely contrived means to remain with us till the end of time.

As a result, we still have God with us: in His Church which teaches and guides us; in Holy Mass where He offers Him- self to the Father for us, and with us in Holy Communion wherein, as the food of our souls, He becomes "God with us" in the most ineffable way.

"Hail, true Body, born of Mary ever Virgin!"

This last antiphon repeats other titles invoked in previous ones: King, Lawgiver, Saviour of all-as if to show that He is going to be all these things not from far away, but close to us as "God with us" still.

II. Come and Save Us, Thou Who Art Our Lord and God

The great mystery of our redemption, "which hath been hidden from ages and generations" (Col. 1: 26), is manifested and accomplished by God "in the fulness of time", i.e., at the time and in the manner laid down from all eternity by the Divine Will. The most momentous phases of that mystery are: the incarnation, the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

During Advent we look forward, full of hope, to the coming of the Child as the initial step in the realisation of the mystery. The incarnation itself is the central point of the mystery; all that went before was a preparation for it; all that comes after it is its further development and its results. The birth of Jesus is the open disclosure of the deepest secret of the mystery; for it evokes already, before the eyes of the Church, the Death on the Cross-so that her Liturgy sings beside the very manger:

Thou, for the sake of guilty man
Permitting Thy pure Blood to flow,
Didst issue from the virgin shrine
And to the Cross a victim go.

Still more completely does the Church sum up the whole process of the mystery of our redemption in the prayer that concludes the Angelus:

Prayer: Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His resurrection; through our Lord...