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O Rex Gentium: the Sixth Advent Antiphon – 22 December




O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,
quem de limo formasti.



O King of the Gentiles
and their desired One,
the Cornerstone that makes both one;
Come, and save humanity,
whom You formed from the dust of the earth.

Isaiah had prophesied:

  • For a child has been born for us, a son given us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
  • He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. (Isaiah 2:4) .

Last month we celebrated Christ the King , and this antiphon partly looks back to that aspect of Christ’s divinity.


But it also, in the spare Latin text, recalls Christ as cornerstone. I like to think of this as a metaphor for  a turbulent wrestling match, say, where the referee finally grabs each contestant under an arm and talks sense into the opponents while he has their attention. At the end of 2016, it is not hard to think of several groups (Brexiters and Remainers, Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics etc etc) who might benefit from such an intervention.



But Christ is also our internal foundation, our support in surviving the dark times and the framework from which we can make the most of the good times.



John Cotter, in his ‘Expectations for Advent’ has two relevant verses (see above), which he suggests be sung to the tune of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel


Pedantic footnote

Some translations have ‘keystone’ (for an arch) rather than ‘cornerstone’ (to form a right-angle join). You don’t need to be a Latin scholar to work out that ‘angularis’ is not a keystone, which has quite a different implication. Christ is both the keystone, and the cornerstone of our existence, of course. He rose above language and grammar, I am sure.


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