Though it is too early to be talking about Advent, the hopes and desires acknowledged in Advent remain present. In particular, I’ve been thinking about the Advent antiphon, “O King of Nations”, and I’ve been thinking about the antiphon even more so in light of this election season. I sense that we have always longed for a gathering together under one leader who will unify all people, upon whom we all may depend, and whose rule will bring justice and satisfaction. Personally, I have felt deeply this longing and desire for One who will set, build, bring together, and span all that is needed and broken in us and in our world.
The translation of the antiphon reads: “O King of the nations, and their desire, the cornerstone making both one: Come and save the human race, which you fashioned from clay.”
The biblical basis for the antiphon comes in part from these two passages from the Old Testament prophets:
Haggai 2:7 “I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,” says the LORD Almighty.
Isaiah 28:16 So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed…”
Malcolm Guite, who first brought my attention to the Antiphons in his Advent devotional, Waiting on the Word, writes about the antiphon, Rex Gentium here. In his sonnet, he brings to light the irony of the rejection of the King of kings and the gospel-paradox that this rejection, in the end, becomes the means by which the King brings about “making both one”.
As we post our ballots, let’s not be dismayed by any result nor hang our hope on any candidate. Election Day is not the day upon which our desiring is fulfilled, rather our desiring is answered on The Day in which King entered the clay in order to hang for us.
O King of Nations for whom we long and desire,
Come to your creation, square it and right,
Mend the marred, rebuild, and never tire
Till darkness is shaken; pull down the night.
As carpenter and joiner, he dovetails and makes one,
Bridges as keystone the pillared-arched ceiling,
Tears down hostility, makes righteousness run,
And cross-armed gathers in mercy and healing.
In concretion and cohesion, held fast by this King,
Sustained by His pervasive presence and power,
Made a people of his own — sealed in promise as a ring,
Wedded beneath his love’s banner and bower.
The King of our desiring has climbed into the clay
Creation’s cornerstone is laid Christmas Day.
© Randy Edwards 2015
Artwork: Egerton MS 3277, 2nd half of 14th century; Psalter and Hours (the ‘Bohun Psalter’)