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O Emmanuel

"O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver, the hope of the nations and their Saviour: Come and save us, O Lord our God." 

Of all the O Antiphons, this one may be the most familiar to people. Though it is the last of the antiphons, it is used as the first verse of the popular Advent hymn, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." When sung in its entirety, the hymn's seven verses cover all of the antiphons in a simplified form.

We all know that the name "Emmanuel" means "God, with the people." Our Scriptures remind us of the fact that God has chosen to be one of us and to live within our community rather than assuming the more "transcendent" characteristic of most gods. Chapter 21 at the end of the Book of Revelation brings this point home as the pages of the Scriptures come to a close: I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them [as their God]. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away." (Revelation 21:3-4)

For the Jewish people, the immanence of God was located in a specific place, the Temple of Jerusalem. This was God's dwelling place on earth. If one wanted to commune with God, it was necessary to travel to Jerusalem. For Christians, the Temple of Jerusalem was replaced by the Temple of the Holy Spirit, our own bodies, where the Spirit dwells as a result of our baptism. While we still have special reverence for Jesus, present in the tabernacle under the appearance of bread and wine, and while it is still considered a pious practice to "pay a visit" when one passes a church, God truly does dwell within each and every baptized person. God is with us. Visiting God is possible each time we turn within ourselves in prayer and contemplation of the beauty which is ours by virtue of God dwelling among us.  

"Father, we contemplate the birth of your Son.  He was born of the Virgin Mary and came to live among us.  May we receive forgiveness and mercy through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen."  

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

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