O King of Nations (Rex Gentium)

Through this past election season and its subsequent fall out and controversy, I have been ironically encouraged by one thing: humanity has a deep seated longing to be led, inspired, gathered, and held together.

The antiphon for December 22 is Rex Gentium, and it 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 excellent 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”.

There is not peace in the earth. We long for it and then demand it. We commit violence to bring it to pass. In the end, it seems hopeless. However, if God is able to use the rejection, cruelty, and tragedy of the cross to bring about the blessing which he promised, I can strive for shalom and not give way to despair. I can hope.

You may listen to a reading of the sonnet via the player below.

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

This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.

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