By Javier Soegaard
Adonai is a name that seems to have fallen out of fashion. Whenever I hear it, I am generally hearing a mediocre sermon about different Hebrew names for God…that or I’m listening to a woefully bad praise & worship song.
As far as Hebrew names are concerned, people are much more mystified by the “I am who I am” name God reveals to Moses, a name so sacred that many refuse to utter it. In the world of pop-Christianity names like Sustainer, Holy Mystery, and Father-God have made some headway, each an indication that personal history and culture shape the experience of naming God.
However, today’s O Antiphon, “O Adonai” tells us something even more marvelous and more sociologically stunning. Its text reads:
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.
Imagine yourself for a moment as one the monks charged with writing these antiphons. Your friend Brother Jerome wrote a beautiful antiphon yesterday about Jesus as Sapientia, the Holy Wisdom of God. The annoying and over-achieving Brother Vincent has already shown you his antiphon for tomorrow, celebrating Jesus as Radix Jesse, the root of Jesse. Like Jerome and Vincent, you are in awe of the imagery of the Old Testament, captivated by the many ways Jesus is prefigured and spoken of; you want to share this fascination with your whole community. You want them enter into the richness of the history, the law, and the story of God’s unfailing mercy.
So how do you do it?
You use the language.
You don’t just pick a symbol or a concept. You choose the very word through which people have been praising God for thousands of years. You don’t translate it to Lord or God. You let them pray with a word Jesus himself would have used, a word that Mary would have used, that Moses, David, Isaiah, or one of the Twelve would have used. You don’t just tell them about the story, you remind them they are part of it.
As we come to the end of the Advent season and the beginning of Christmas, let us again give thanks that we are not just part of some ethical society or business fraternity. We are part of a history, a family of faith not united by our blood but by our common prayer to the God who is our Savior, the helpless child in a manger who is our Adonai.