O Clavis David

Today’s antiphon is O Clavis David (O Key of David):

O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel, that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth, come to liberate the prisoner from the prison, and them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death. 

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel; qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis. 

Click here to hear it chanted.

Christ In Limbo, by Fra Angelico

These antiphons are ancient. They were already being prayed in the first centuries of the Church, for they are mentioned by Boethius (480-524) in connection with established monastic prayer practice. Praying these antiphons over seven nights leading up to Christmas concentrates the gradually-unfolded prophesies of the coming Messiah into one short week. It is striking that through the ages before the birth of Jesus, faith in the Messiah to come was directed not towards a specific baby who would be born in Bethlehem, but towards whosoever would be the fulfillment of these prophetic titles. And so, in the final days of advent, we are invited to anticipate the arrival of the Messiah not through the familiar Christmas story, but through ancient titles given to a people whose faith was in an unseen God.

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