Veni, veni Emanuel!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.
Captivum solve Israel!
Qui gemit in exilio,
Privatus Dei Filio.
Gaude, gaude, Emanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel.
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,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.”
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
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