O Clavis David – O Key of David – advent antiphon: a reflection

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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.

cf Isaiah 22.22; 42.7

Here is Kathryn singing this antiphon:

O clavis David

This image of the ‘Key of David’ only appears in the book of Isaiah. Those who put together the advent antiphons clearly saw this symbol as a messianic one referring to Jesus. There is a link between the idea of the Key of David and Isaiah 61 – the reading that falls to Jesus in the synagogue after his temptation in the wilderness:

He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

20 And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’

– Luke 4:17-21

I had never noticed before how this reading by Jesus in the synagogue comes immediately after Jesus’ temptation. So this is, effectively, Jesus’ mission statement. Right there he is proclaiming freedom for the captives – an echo, perhaps, of the slavery of the Israelites in Egypt. Jesus is the One who can set us free, free from the prisons we create for ourselves through bad self-image, being mean to others, deliberate acts to cut ourselves off from God and others. Jesus has the key to unlock life in all its fullness for us.

What are the things in your life that you need Jesus to unlock?

 

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