Sunday, December 20, 2020



Happy 4th Sunday of Advent!  I’m Sr. Moira Quinn. 
I am a Redemptoristine Nun speaking to you from the Incarnation Monastery in Beacon, NY.  Welcome to my reflection on the Great ‘O’ Antiphon: “
O Key of David, opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom: come and free the prisoners of darkness!”

     ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’ is probably the most beloved of all Advent hymns.   In the monastery, we sing the Great O Antiphons the last 7 nights before Christmas Eve during Evening Prayer as the introduction to the Magnificat: Mary’s hymn of rejoicing in the power of God.   Each evening’s antiphon gives us another name or title of God.  Tonight, we sing:

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. 
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel!

         The ‘key’ in today’s Gospel of the Annunciation of the Lord is God’s gentle request, thru the Archangel Gabriel, and Mary’s humble and bold ‘Yes.’   This sets in motion our ‘release from misery and darkness   and opens the way to our heavenly home.’   What does Mary do when she accepts God’s invitation to be the Mother of the promised Messiah?  She rejoices.  She rejoices as she opens her heart and sings the Magnificat.


         Did you know the name Jesus, Y’shua, in English means ‘Jehovah sets free’?  That is the underlying theme of all the O Antiphons: our longing for God to free us from whatever keeps us in darkness.     In many cultures,

to know the name of another person gives you power over that person.  Think of the power we have in knowing, in our limited way, some of the names for the ineffable God; such as Key of David.  This awareness gives us the power to cry out boldly to God. 

         I just learned that ‘O’ is another way of saying ‘You.’  Can you imagine yourself boldly saying to God, “You, Key of David, listen up, open our hearts to set us free from dot, dot, dot.’ Not many of us would be so presumptuous in prayer, but I think God wants us, as St Alphonsus says, to talk to God as a trusted friend, and say what’s on our mind.


Sadly, we live in a time when we lock our doors and our hearts in fear of the unknown.  But the gentle Jesus is the Unknown One, who steals into this dark world as a babe.  And as a baby, our hearts are easily stolen and our burdens lightened.  Jesus, wielding the Key of Love, the Key of David, has stolen the stones that weigh down our hearts.  

         As Jesus grew, he gently and boldly announced to the world that he has come to break open the doors of our hearts to free us from the prison of darkness, hatred and fear, pride, misogyny, exclusion, arrogance, greed.

         Jesus wants ‘the eyes of our hearts to be enlightened, that we may know what is the hope that belongs to God’s call: the promised glories that God’s holy ones will inherit.   Eph 1:18      ‘God has taken us out of the power of darkness and created a place for us in the kingdom of the Beloved Son. 

Through Jesus we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins.’ Col.1:14     Through God’s grace we become a people of boldness and humility, integrity, wisdom, generosity, inclusivity, compassion, charity.

         In this time of covid-19 there is a sense of loss.  Every-thing feels different. Winter is here.  Today is one of the shortest days of the year.  With only 9 hours of daylight
the darkness feels overwhelming.  We need light, we yearn for it.  Just like we yearn for God to free us from the darkness of our lives.   It is as if we lost the key to life.

         Recently, we bought a new car that has a key fob.  As long as the fob is on your person you can open the car door and start the engine.  This fob gives you an invisible power.  What is our invisible power?  Our power is our faith in knowing God holds the key to set us free and bring us into the light.   The Blessed Virgin possessed that invisible power of faith and trust.  When the Archangel said, ‘Do not be afraid, you have found favor with God.’  Mary was able to boldly say Yes, and the Most High’s heart was unlocked- and out flowed the Light of Mercy, the Beloved Son.  Her ‘Yes’ gives us hope:  Jesus, ‘The true light, which enlightens everyone, and has come into the world.’  John 1:9  

         How humble is our God to come into our dysfunctional world.   Born to an obscure couple from a middle of nowhere village with no social standing this child was loved beyond all measure.  Thus, were the humble beginnings of Jesus, the God-made-man.  By his parents love and their prayerful reverence, they modeled to the young Jesus the power and holiness of a humble life. God enlightened Jesus and he grew strong in faith and love.

It takes real strength to be humble, to know who you really are.  In the genealogy of Matthew, Jesus is called ‘the son of David, the son of Abraham.’ (Mt 1:1)      In prayerful union with the Father, Jesus heard the words at his Baptism in the Jordan and on the mount of Transfiguration:  ‘This is my Beloved Son.’ Mt 3:17, 17:5  

Jesus understood he was God’s Beloved.  In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “The Father is in me and I in the Father” (10:38). “The Father and I are one” (Jn 10:30).  This proclaims the oneness of Jesus’ power with the power of God.   And as God’s emissary Christ uses this power to cast out the darkness of sin and enlighten us in the ways of God’s mercy and love.

         In prayer, we too, come to know we are God’s Beloved. 
Mary’s Yes happened 2000 years ago.  But what about our yes?  Like Mary, we can have the courage and faith, hope and trust to pray confidently.  We can boldly call out to the Most High to lead us out of darkness.   Our faith and trust in God’s unconditional love assures us   our prayers will be heard as we follow Jesus who lights the Way.    

An often-overlooked verse in today’s gospel says: “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Lk 1:32-33  

         The prophet Isaiah says: ‘I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; what he opens, no one will shut.’  Isaiah 22: 22  

         What ‘key’ is laid on Christ’s shoulder?  The cross.  This cross is the key which opens and closes the way to heaven.  Thank Goodness, Christ’s life, death and resurrection and ascension has given us a means, by the forgiveness of our sins, to enter heaven. 

         Advent is not a time of penance.   It’s a time of finding again the Key of David by nurturing and strengthening the power of our faith and trust to bring about the kingdom in our own time and place.  

         Jesus humbled himself to become a tiny babe in Bethlehem.  Today he comes to us as friend and savior, to give us the keys that unlocks whatever is keeping us imprisoned.

What keys do we need in today’s world?  The Key of David, the Light of the World, has the answer.    In the monastery we have been singing Advent hymns since Nov 28th,  numerous times a day.  Around now, the 4th Sunday of Advent, I get a little tired of it.  So, I listen to some oldies.  If you are of my generation, you may remember England Dan and John Ford Coley.  They had a song that speaks to me in this time of pandemic and post-election.   I’m not going to sing it, but you can find it on YouTube.  It’s called ‘Love is the Answer’ written by Todd Rundgren. 
The last part says:

Ask the man in your heart for the answer
And when you feel afraid, love one another
When you've lost your way, love one another
When you're all alone, love one another
When you're far from home, love one another
When you're down and out, love one another
All your hope’s run out, love one another
When you need a friend, love one another
When you're near the end, love,
we’ve got to love,
we’ve got to love one another now!
Light of the world,
shine on me,
Love is the answer
Shine on us all, 
Set us free, 
Love is the answer

For me, this sounds like a call and response.   It’s something like what we do in the monastery chapel when we pray reciting or singing the psalms with one side responding to the other.  In this pseudo Advent song, we call out our troubles and plead with God to help us. And God responds simply by answering: love one another.

         God gives us the Key: the Light of the World, to show us how to love, to shine on one another.  This key opens the gate to God’s kingdom in the here and now.   Can you hear God calling you in your heart?  
Come out of the darkness; you are free. 

         Let us polish the keys of love, light and freedom that God has given us in Jesus.  Let us unlock the doors of our hearts that we may sing to Jesus, ‘We are coming to you, Key of David, you, Emmanuel.   
And with Mary we REJOICE!