18 December 2008

O Adonai

O Adonai, O Prince of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the burning bush, and delivered to him the law on Sinai: Come, deliver us with outstretched arm.

the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our ruler, the Lord is our king; he will save us. (Isaiah 33.22)

I am the Lord, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols. (Isaiah 42.8)

Adonai is the Hebrew word meaning ‘Lord’, which Jews traditionally substitute for the divine name when reading the Old Testament. Here it is applied to Jesus, implying that Jesus is the God of the Covenant. In Greek, Adonai became Kurios: a title with great political significance in first-century Palestine. Only Caesar was Kurios. To say, ‘No. Jesus is Kurios, is Lord’ is to say both that he is God and that none of the powers of this world are worthy of our ultimate allegiance. It is to say that our allegiance to him takes priority over our allegiance to any nation, ethnic group, political party or cause.

According to the antiphon, it was this Adonai – Jesus – who spoke to Moses in the burning bush, and who gave the Law on Mt Sinai.

Finally the image of the outstretched arm again identifies the Messiah with God. St Irenaeus spoke of Jesus and the Holy Spirit as the two hands of God, but the image goes back to the Old Testament. With ‘outstretched arm’ God showed his power and might, led his people out of Egypt, and delivered them from dangers.
Unsayable, you chose to speak one tongue
Unseeable, you gave yourself away,
The Adonai, the Tetragrammaton
Grew by a wayside in the light of day.
O you who dared to be a tribal God,
To own a language, people and a place,
Who chose to be exploited and betrayed,
If so you might be met with face to face,
Come to us here, who would not find you there,
Who chose to know the skin and not the pith,
Who heard no more than thunder in the air,
Who marked the mere events and not the myth.
Touch the bare branches of our unbelief
And blaze again like fire in every leaf.

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