O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Veni, veni Emanuel!
Captivum solve Israel!
Qui gemit in exilio,
Privatus Dei Filio.

Gaude, gaude, Emanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been reflecting this past season on a few of my favorite Christmas hymns. O Come, O Come Emmanuel has been stuck in my head in particular this season, partially because I have already heard it several times, but also because I have been digesting the words.

I decided to briefly inform myself about the history of this hymn, and the history is deep indeed. The hymn is actually a collection of Latin antiphons from the 12th century, a series of call and responses that might have been a liturgy in a medieval church. The melody is from a 15th Cen­tu­ry pro­cess­ion­al for French Franciscan nuns. The choir at our church sang a beautifully haunting arrangement a few weeks ago. Listening to them sing made me feel like I was back in Chartres cathedral in France, in awe of the architecture and the deep-seated history of such a place.

The verses are not only beautiful, but also have prophetic meaning. I will highlight a few:
O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Emmanuel refers to Isai­ah 7:14: “Be­hold, a vir­gin shall con­ceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Em­man­u­el.” Em­man­u­el is He­brew for “God with us.”
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.

The “Rod of Jesse” references Isai­ah 11:1: “There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jes­se”
O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

“Day-Spring” comes John the Baptist's father, Zacharias, in Luke 1:78: “The day­spring from on high has vis­it­ed us.”
O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

“Thou Key of Da­vid” is in Isai­ah 22:22: “The key of the house of Da­vid will I lay up­on his shoul­der."

--All information directly and indirectly from Cyber Hymnal

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