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Advent 2013: 'O Clavis David'

Friday, December 20, 2013
O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Isreal, qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Key of David and the scepter of the House of Israel, who opens and no one shuts, who shuts and no one opens. O come and bring out the captive from the prison-house, him who sits in the in darkness and in the shadow of death.


At the beginning of today’s antiphon there are two significant words: ‘a key’ and ‘David’. To understand not only these words, but the whole antiphon we need to go to the Bible.

Let’s start our searching in the Old Testament. There is one very important fragment in the book of the prophet Isaiah: “I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut and no one shall open” (Is 22:22). But if we look at the New Testament we find very similar words in the book of Revelation where St. John writes: “These are the words of the holy one, the true one, who has key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens” (Rev 3:7).

These two words have a symbolic meaning: ‘a key’ means ‘access’ and ‘David’ means ‘kingdom’, so they mean together ‘the access to the kingdom’. David was a king of Israel, thus key of David is a symbol of power and authority. In the antiphon appears also “the scepter of Israel” emphasizing David’s supremacy over Israel. If we look at Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus (cf. Mt 1:1-11) we see that Jesus was a descendant of David. Also in today’s Gospel the angel Gabriel says to Mary that God will give to Jesus the throne of his ancestor David (cf. Lk 1:32).

This Advent antiphon emphasizes that Jesus’s incarnation and birth are for us like a key. Jesus is Key of David, because through Him we have received the access to the kingdom, the access to the kingdom of heaven. It is because that Jesus is a descendant of David, so He is also a king, a king who has absolute power and dominion over sin and death. He is the Messiah who can open and close, He and no one else, therefore only He can deliver the mankind from the chains of prison and gives freedom those who are in the darkness and in the shadow of death. We have the access to the kingdom through the Church, because Jesus gave Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Mt 16:19).

We are waiting for Christmas when we will celebrate the first Jesus’s coming, His birth in Bethlehem, but Advent is also the time of waiting for the second and final coming of Christ, and after that, as we can read in today’s Gospel, He will reign and of his kingdom there will be no end (cf. Lk 1:33).

Paweł Szylak OP

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