O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
the hope of the nations and their Saviour:
Come and save us, O Lord our God
And so we come to the seventh and final O Antiphon, which, as with the others, takes its cue from Isaiah, in this case Isaiah chapters 7 and 8, in which King Ahaz is told of a sign to come from the Lord Himself: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel”. Immanuel, or emmanuel means ‘God with us’ in Hebrew. It is St Matthew who applies this prophecy to the coming of Jesus, when, having explained the circumstances of Jesus’ conception he wrote:
22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
We have seen, in the Antiphons, the various attributes of the Messiah, and here, in the last one, we come to the heart of the matter – He is, literally, “God with us”. As St John tells us, the Word of God became man and dwelt among us, and He remains with us if we receive Him in our hearts, by faith with thanksgiving. It is this truth which is at the heart of the Incarnation, and this truth which sets us free, unbinds our chains, opens our eyes and brings us into the light so that we can thank Him for the love He has shown us.
And so, we complete the O Antiphons on the very day before at Midnight Mass, we celebrate the coming into the world of the Christ child. This is the turning point in history, the moment when our Creator intervenes to save His creation. It is an act of pure love – the Cross becomes the bridge across which we walk to redemption, and God turns even mankind’s cruellest punishment to His divine purposes. When we consider that journey from the crib in the stable to the Cross on Calvary we can only marvel that we are held in such love by our Father.
From what are we ‘saved’? We are saved from the consequences of our own weaknesses. He does not require of us anything we cannot give, but he does require of us something we find hard to give – obedience. Like all children we want to know ‘why?’. He gives us the answer in the Virgin birth and in the Crucifixion and Resurrection – why? Because we are His children, and we should trust Him to know what is best for us.
O God, who knowest all things, help us to accept the love you so freely offer.