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O Adonai: the Second Antiphon- a miscellany of responses


O Lord and Ruler of the House of Israel

First, the Latin text and the English translation:

O Adonai

O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and gave him the law on Sinai:
Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.

These antiphons address Christ with seven magnificent Messianic titles, based on the Old Testament prophecies and [attributes] of Christ. The Church recalls the variety of the ills of man before the coming of the Redeemer…Before the coming of God in the flesh, we were ignorant, subject to eternal punishment, slaves of the Devil, shackled with our sinful habits, lost in darkness, exiled from our true country. Hence the ancient antiphons announce Jesus in turn as our Teacher, our Redeemer, our Liberator, our Guide, our Enlightener and our Saviour.

The Golden Legend of Jacobus de Voragine, trans. Ryan and Ripperger, 1941

 The antiphons beg God with mounting impatience to come and save His people. The order of the antiphons climb climactically through our history of Redemption…In the first, O Sapientia, we take a backward flight into the recesses of eternity to address Wisdom, the Word of God. In the second, O Adonai, we have leaped from eternity to the time of Moses and the Law of Moses (about 1400 B.C.).

Jeanne Kun comments:

“Adonai” is Hebrew for “my Lord”, and was substituted by devout Jews for the name “Yahweh”, out of reverence.  With this second antiphon we progress from creation to the familiar story of God manifesting himself by name to Moses and giving his law to Israel as their way of life.  We are also reminded of the Israelites’ deliverance from bondage under pharaoh – a foreshadowing of our own redemption from sin.  The image of God’s arm outstretched in power to save his chosen people also brings to mind the later scene of Jesus with his arms outstretched for us on the cross.

The poet and composer, the Revd Malcolm Guite, has written a sequence of sonnets on the antiphons.
O Adonai begins:

Unsayable, you chose to speak one tongue,
Unseeable, you gave yourself away,
The Adonai, the Tetragramaton
Grew by a wayside in the light of day….

Ann Lewin, in her Come Emmanuel:

It was the Exodus that God gave as his reason for giving his people the laws that would guide their lives…God’s relationship with his people was a covenanted relationship, a relationship in which both parties pledged faithfulness to each another, that made demands on the people in return for God’s faithful care.

Our Digital Nun, at iBenedictines blog, concludes our piece with:

…Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush makes one tremble. God’s holiness flaming out from an insignificant shrub is a thought to strike awe; but the thought of not seeing it, of mistaking his presence, is more terrible still. I suspect many of us would admit that there have been times in our lives when God was there but we didn’t register his presence. We were too caught up in other things. We ignored the hand he stretched out to us….


Is David Cameron Representative of Many Members of the Church of England?


Can we for the moment put aside criticism of the present government’s social policies and ask, instead, why David Cameron used the occasion of an event to mark the end of a year’s celebration of the King James version of the bible to celebrate the role of the KJV in our national life? Context is all.

Cameron’s Christianity

He has been mocked for describing himself as:

…a committed – but I have to say vaguely practising – Church of England Christian, who will stand up for the values and principles of my faith…but who is full of doubts and, like many, constantly grappling with the difficult questions when it comes to some of the big theological issues.

Does this not remind you of:

Lord, I believe: help thou mine unbelief (Mark 9:23-25)

Of course, I have no inside information about David Cameron’s faith, but his statement reads to me like someone who wants to believe, who does at heart believe, but perhaps struggles with the problem of pain and evil, having suffered the death of his young son. Canon Brian Mountford offers this reflection in a recently broadcast service:

In English literature, too, we find evidence of religious doubt which is protesting but loyal. Philip Davis, Professor of English at Liverpool University, observes that in ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’…when Evangelist points the Man, the potential Christian, to the way of salvation, he asks, ‘Do you see yonder Wicket-gate?’ Bunyan simply writes, ‘The Man said, No’. But it is not an angry, anti-religion ‘no’. He knows the right answer would be yes, but reluctantly he has to be truthful and say no. Then he is given a second chance by Evangelist who asks, ‘Do you see yonder shining light?’ Of course, a St Paul or a Billy Graham might say, ‘Hallelujah, yes, I see the light,’ but the Man manages a less than certain, ‘I think I do’. However underwhelming that may feel, it’s nevertheless a form of belief and perhaps the very essence of belief. It’s positive and has the same ring as ‘help thou mine unbelief’. Davis cites other examples, including the mighty Luther who declares, ‘Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me.’


 The Church of England and English Political Life

Professor Owen Chadwick described in 1960 the historic relationship that grew up between landowner and parson – the world of Anthony Trollope:

‘Until yesterday, as it seems, the squire and the country parson were with us, the rulers of the parish in their different spheres. The manor-house would stand near the church, and sometimes the villagers, living outside the park, needed to pass through the park to their Sunday services. In its dim origins the country church had often been a chapel which the lord had founded and of which he was proprietor. In the earliest days the distinction between the landlord’s private chaplain and the vicar of the landlord’s parish had been blurred. But then the lawyers recognised the parson to have such a free-hold of his benefice that he could not be ejected without a court of law; and once the parson could not be dismissed, even by his landlord, there were two independent powers in the parish, and we have the relationship between squire and parson familiar to English history and the English novel.’

This is partly what we mean when we say the Church of England is the established, national Church. Individual parsons and squires would manage rural affairs between them. Of course, life is no longer like that but it is part of our history.

The Church of England would perhaps no longer welcome this arrangement as altogether too cosy, but to me the idea that the government of the day should sit down with the Church to discuss how to handle some of the problems that face us has definite appeal.

The Digital Nun recently signalled the increasing use of the phrase ‘the right thing to do’ by our politicians. She points out that moral decisions are rarely as simple as the phrase suggests. However, at least they are trying – rather like Queen Victoria promising to be good.

Muslim Appreciation of this view

The BBC quotes reactions to David Cameron’s speech, including this one by Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra, a member of the Muslim Council of Britain and an imam in Leicester (the bolding is mine).

“It’s very seldom I get excited by what our prime minister has to say and this is one of those times. As Muslims we also believe in the Bible. We believe in the teachings of Jesus. Not only that, but in the teachings of all the biblical prophets, including Moses in the Torah. So this is something that we feel is absolutely in tune with the Muslim thinking. We have to base our behaviour according to scripture, God’s revealed message. “For a long time Muslims have been trying to express this idea, that for us as Muslims Islam is not just a religion but a way of life. To divorce politics from religion is not something we are able to do, we cannot leave our religion at home or in the mosques, it comes with us wherever we go. So it’s refreshing to hear the prime minister say Christians should do the same. I agree Britain is the best country for Muslims to live in, at least in Europe.


Please also ‘contrast and compare’ Will Cookson’s excellent blog on this subject at:

Also Bishop Nick Baines of Bradford, who writes at:

And Edward Green at

Elizaphanian writes: David Cameron’s Christianity, or: why conservatives can support the Occupy movement


Phil Ritchie tells us of Screwtape’s reaction:



The view of St Martin’s in the Fields from Trafalgar Square is by Anibal Trejo via Shutterstock. The intention is not to suggest that our Prime Minister is to be compared to the king of the jungle, but rather that he represents the religious stance of many Englishmen.

Christian New Media Awards & Conference: Alice Goes Back to Wonderland

Last week, in the twenty four hours between 6.00 pm on Friday and 6.00 pm on Saturday, I lived in an alternative reality, like Alice in Wonderland.

It began with dinner in the splendid Wren church, St Stephen’s Walbrook, known to me as the London Internet Church whose Compline services I ‘attend’ every night. Superbly lit, the room seemed bathed in the light of an illuminated swimming pool in which we were collectively submerged.  Characters whom I ‘knew’ well came and went, like the Bishop of London (the Duchess, I think); Peter Kerridge (the Caterpillar perhaps?); Krish Kandiah (the Gryphon?); and Maria Toth (as the animatrice she would have to be the White Rabbit, but, unlike him, she remained calm, cool and collected throughout). In these surroundings, I wasn’t at all surprised when it was announced that I had won a prize – it was that sort of dream- and everyone was clapping and laughing at a (not very good) joke I made.

The baroque surroundings contrasted in an arresting and challenging way with the 21st century  trappings  of these awards for bringing British Christianity into the digital age:  the worlds of yesterday, today and tomorrow united to celebrate the newest expression of the good news which is over two thousand years old. Continue reading »

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