Monday, December 20, 2010

O come, thou Key of David

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Latin translation of O Clavis David
O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel; you open and no one can shut; you shut and no one can open: Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house, those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

Advent Carol
O come, thou Key of David, come, and open wide our heavenly home; make safe the way that leads on high, and close the path to misery. Rejoice, rejoice. Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

The antiphon for December 20th is based on the image of Jesus as Savior, who reconciles God and man and is himself the very key that reopens the gates of paradise which were shut after the Fall (see Genesis 3:23-24).

Isaiah prophesied that work of the Savior was to release those who were held captive by sin (see Isaiah 42:7). Isaiah also foretold of the Messiah that God would “place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open” (Isaiah 22:22). And that, “His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore” (Isaiah 9:7).

In Isaiah’s day, David’s descendant King Hezekiah cleansed and restored the Temple. As a type of the Christ to come, Hezekiah rose from a dire illness on the third day. He entrusted to his steward Eliakim, the “key of David”—his authority—as an office to be handed on.

So likewise Jesus entrusted to St. Peter and all the apostles the “keys of the kingdom” (see Matthew 16:17-19). This was especially the authority to declare true doctrine and denounce heresy as well as the authority to bind and loose people from the shackles of sin. The church still exercises the power of those keys to this day.

When the Lord died on His Cross and rose again, he ransomed “captive Israel.” Then he descended to the dead to proclaim redemption and set them free. He still does the same for us, visiting us through his ministers. The bishop or priest of the church, exercising the keys, speaks with Christ’s voice. He teaches and absolves sinners with the authority entrusted to him by Christ.

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