WDTPRS The O Antiphons: 18 December

The O Antiphons: 18 December – O Adonai

LATIN: O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

ENGLISH: O Lord and Ruler the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the flame of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: come, and redeem us with outstretched arms.

Scripture References:
Exodus 3
Micah 5:2
Matthew 2:6

Relevant verse of  Veni, Veni Emmanuel:

O come, O come, thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud and majesty, and awe.

"Adonai" is "LORD."  It was the Hebrew word that the Jews used when they found the four-lettered word for God’s name which they held to be too sacred to pronounce aloud.  The four letter word for God’s Name, the Tetragrammaton, is still venerated by us to the point that Holy Church asks us not to use it in liturgical song.

Christ is Lord, Lord of Creation. We sang this yesterday in the antiphon "O Sapientia". Christ is also Lord of the Covenant with the People He chose.

The Lord made covenants with Noah, Abraham, and Moses. He guided them and all the People. He gave them Law. He protected and feed them. The Lord delivered them from bondage to Pharaoh and unending slavery. He went before them with arm outstretched.

This was all a pre-figuring of the great work of redemption that Christ would work on the Cross. He redeemed us His People from Satan and the eternal damnation of hell.

He once appeared clothed in the burning bush that was not consumed by fire. He is about to appear again clothed in flesh in our liturgical celebration of Christmas.  He will appear again one day in the future to judge the living and the dead.  Each day He appears to us in the person of our neighbor.

What amazing contrasts we find in our Lord! He came in thunder and lightening to give the Law on Mt. Sinai. He comes now in swaddling clothes.  He will come again in glory.  He comes humbly in the appearance of Bread and Wine.

He still goes before us with outstretched arm and our foes are put to flight at the sight of His banner!

Please share!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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16 Responses to WDTPRS The O Antiphons: 18 December

  1. Gorgasal says:

    “It was the Hebrew word that the Jews used when they found the four-lettered word for God’s name which they held to be too sacred to pronounce aloud.”

    AFAIK, they still use, and they still hold.

  2. Ed says:

    Thank you, Father Zuhlsdorf,

    for this translation and commentary, especially meaningful for me this morning.

    I bears repeating that the work you put into all this, and the input of this community, come to mean more and more for me. Tangible Grace.

  3. Dear Fr. Zuhlsdorf,

    There is a specifically and explicitly political denotation to the word,ADONAI, and the expanded ADONAI SABAOTH, often acceptably rendered in English as ‘The LORD of Hosts’: the hosts o+are exercitus, but they are also the heavenl, as the Italian translation s

  4. Apologies – that escaped me. What I was saying was that there is a specifically and explicitly cosmo-political denotation to the word, ADONAI, and the expanded ADONAI SABAOTH, often acceptably rendered in English as ‘The LORD of Hosts’: the hosts are exercitus, and also the heavenly hosts, as the Italian says, Signore delle schiere. These are schiere celesti, over which Pharaoh was lord, the manifestation of Ra, responsible for the maintenance of ma’at, balance, ordo, dike kosmike (if anyone knows how to code, I’d love to know how to code italics, Greek, etc.). Adonai Sabaoth, which we pray in the Sanctus as Dominus Deus Sabaoth, is Lord over Heaven: the Israelites, in the flight from Egypt, are also the people through the salvation of which their temperamental tribal deity reveals Himself to be the lord of all there is, for he bested the power of Pharaoh, which was the power of the cosmos, as it were. So, the tribal deity must in reality stand over the cosmos, as its ruler, commander and power ordinary. “Their god is God,” as Brynnr says in The Ten Commandments.

  5. Tom in NY says:

    You’ll need to understand your “sabaoth” outside the original Latin.
    Veni, veni Adonai!
    Qui populo in Sinai,
    Legem dedisti vertice,
    In maiestate gloriae.
    O come Lord! (you) who gave the law in the majesty of glory to the people at Sinai.
    See Is. 6:3, the root of our Sanctus prayer at Mass, which uses Hb “sabaoth” in the original, “exercituum” in the Vulgate – “of the armies.” The LXX ducks translation, and only transliterates “sabaoth.”
    Do our readers want to understand Hb “kabod” (presence)from Is. 6:3, which comes as “doxa” in LXX and directly in Gk at Jn. 1:14, when they read “maiestatis gloriae?”

  6. Tom in NY says:

    Post scriptum:
    Cf. also Hb “kabod” in Is. 40:5, same “doxa” in LXX and “gloria” in Vulgate.
    “Maiestatis gloriae” should have been “maiestate gloriae.”

  7. Dear Tom in NY,

    Thanks for taking this up with me. I am trained as a (political) philosopher, not as a biblical exegete, so being reminded of and/or pointed to the pertinent scripture is sometimes necessary, generally useful, and in this case, pleasant.

    My issue – and perhaps the tone of my original post does not do justice to the tentative character of my proposal – regards more precisely the development of Israel’s self-understanding as representative of humanity under divine lordship, which, historically, seems linked (obviously it is ultimately traceable to the call of Abraham) to the Exodus, in which an obscure semitic tribal deity does as a matter of fact break the power of Ra. The significance of this is that the Egyptian order of cosmological empire was, from that moment, placed under permanent crisis (if you are hearing echoes of Eric Voegelin, do not be surprised).

    What I would like to do is find a way to let the liturgy (intermittent thoughts in this vein began to occur to me some years ago, as I read then-Card. Ratzinger’s essay on the cosmic significance of the liturgy, while roughly simultaneously reading vol. 1 of Voegelin’s Order and History, ISRAEL AND REVELATION), the liturgical prayer of the Church, both be read as part of, and at the same time, inform the (theo-political) reading of, history.

    Needless to say, I am only beginning to think consecutively about the matter. Indeed, I am not sure yet whether this is consecutive thinking.

    As such, it may be a conversation destined to go too far afield for this thread, but if you are interested, I am happy to talk about it here while Fr. Z is willing to host us.

  8. Thomas says:

    Father Z,

    Thank you again for the wonderful Advent reflection. What a beautiful thought you expressed – the God who came in thunder and lightening on Mt. Sinai to the terror of the people comes in our flesh! Thank you for preparing us for Christmas!

  9. Tom in NY says:

    To return to the Exodus — it’s easy to see the political comment that Ra, Osiris, Isis or Pharaoh don’t own you. When you’re a child of God, you have freedom from the state. It’s the same point the late Holy Father made on his camping trips.
    Whether you link the 10 plagues to Santorini’s eruption, and whether you link the Exodus to the Hyksos leaving the Nile delta — Adonai has spoken to Pharaoh in Memphis or downriver at Avaris (closer to Goshen) – to let my people go. They passed from Pharaoh’s oppression to Adonai’s liberation. You can see part of this behind JBC section on Exodus.

  10. jane says:

    I thouhgt we were not allowed to sing anything with ‘Adonai’ in it..thinking of the contemporary music. And here we have Veni Veni…with ‘Adonai’ in on e of the verses. What should we do as choir directors?

  11. jane: This is an antiphon in the Church’s official liturgical prayer. It is not some contemporary ditty.

  12. GJP says:

    In my 1975 ICEL Liturgy of the Hours, it is:

    O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.

  13. Will says:

    This is an antiphon in the Church’s official liturgical prayer. It is not some contemporary ditty.

    So, obviously, the choir director will never let it see the light of day!

  14. Fr. J says:


    “Adonai” is fine to say or sing. The Holy See has asked use not to use the Divine Name…i.e. “YHWH” (commonly rendered as “Yahwey”). “Adonai” (a Hebrew word meaning “Lord”) and “Ha’shem” (a Hebrew word meaning “The Name”) are the two words the ancient Hebrews and observant Jews today use in place of “YHWH”. We may use these in liturgical song, but not “YHWH”.

    For more information, please see: http://www.execulink.com/~dtribe/blog/Name%20of%20God.pdf

    Advent blessings,
    Fr. Jeremiah

  15. jane says:

    Thanks everyone…I direct the choir at our Latin Mass Community…you guys explained it for me. Fear not, there will be no contemporary ‘ditties.’We are doing the propers and all..starting High Masses, etc. Our priest is even beginning to sing the responses…it is all getting very exciting.

    jane in memphis

  16. jane says:

    I mean I am helping to direct the Latin Mass choir…we have had a wonderful organist/director who has kept the Latin going for a long time…I am just assisting him.