Thursday, December 19, 2013

O Clavis David (December 19)

O Clavis David ("O Key of David") gets sung tonight at Vespers as the Antiphon upon Magnificat.

O Key of David, and Scepter of the house of Israel; that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth, and no man openeth: come, and bring forth from the prisionhouse the captive, who sitteth in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Here's a video of the antiphon sung in English, from the Society of St. John the Evangelist, an Episcopal monastic order in Cambridge, MA; there's a discussion of the antiphon after it's sung.

The text for this antiphon is found in two places in the Scriptures: Isaiah 22 and Revelation 3:
Isaiah 22:22: And the Key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.

Revelation 3:7: And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth....

Clearly, the Revelation passage is directly quoting the Isaiah; I still am not  certain of the significance of the phrase in either case, however, or whether this alludes to some earlier text or idea.  (Actually, I've been meaning to look into this for year now!)

This, though, comes from Hymns and Carols of Christmas; it's from Prosper Guéranger's The Liturgical Year, Vol. 1, Advent.
O Jesus, Son of David! heir to his throne and his power! Thou art now passing over, in Thy way to Bethlehem, the land that once was the kingdom of Thy ancestor, but now is tributary to the Gentiles. Scarce an inch of this ground which has not witnessed the miracles of the justice and mercy of Jehovah, Thy Father, to the people of the old Covenant, which is so soon to end. Before long, when Thou hast come from beneath the virginal cloud which now hides Thee, Thou wilt pass along this same road doing good, 1 healing all manner of sickness and every infirmity, 2 and yet having not where to lay Thy head. 3 Now, at least, Thy Mother’s womb affords Thee the sweetest rest, and Thou receivest from her the profoundest adoration and the tenderest love. But, dear Jesus, it is Thine own blessed will that Thou leave this loved abode. Thou hast, O eternal Light, to shine in the midst of this world’s darkness, this prison where the captive, whom Thou hast come to deliver, sits in the shadow of death. Open his prison-gates by Thy all-powerful key. And who is this captive, but the human race, the slave of error and vice? Who is this captive, but the heart of man, which is thrall to the very passions it blushes to obey? Oh! come and set at liberty the world Thou hast enriched by Thy grace, and the creatures whom Thou hast made to be Thine own brethren.


O Gabriel! nuntius cœlorum, qui januis clausis ad me intrasti, et Verbum nunciasti: Concipies et paries: Emmanuel vocabitur. O Gabriel! the messenger of heaven, who camest unto me through the closed doors, and didst announce the Word unto me : Thou shalt conceive and bear a Son, and he shall be called Emmanuel.

Notes from Dom Guéranger:

1. Acts x. 38.
2. St. Matt. iv. 23.
3. St. Luke ix. 58. 

These are certainly beautiful metaphors, in any case.

Below is a Latin version of the Magnificat itself.

Here are the Latin and modern English (US BCP 1979) versions of the beautiful Magnificat, so that you can sing along if you wish.

Magnificat: anima mea Dominum.
Et exultavit spiritus meus: in Deo salutari meo.
Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae:
ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes.
Quia fecit mihi magna, qui potens est:
et sanctum nomen eius.
Et misericordia eius, a progenie et progenies:
timentibus eum.
Fecit potentiam in brachio suo:
dispersit superbos mente cordis sui.
Deposuit potentes de sede:
et exaltavit humiles.
Esurientes implevit bonis:
et divites dimisit inanes.
Suscepit Israel puerum suum:
recordatus misericordiae suae.
Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros:
Abraham, et semini eius in saecula.

Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto,
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; *
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him *
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, *
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, *
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, *
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel, *
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers, *
to Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

If you'd like to pray the whole office of Vespers, you can do it at St. Bede's Breviary; choose "Amplified Prayer Book" under "Style" to get the "O's".

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