“O Key of David”
Tuesday, December 20, 2022, 4th Week of Advent
by Fr. David M. Knight
View readings for today:
O Key of David and scepter of the house of Israel,
You open wide and no one closes;
You close fast and no one opens.
Come -- lead out the bound ones
from their imprisoning retreat
where they sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death.
Sin isolates and alienates people. Not just our personal sins, but the sin of the world, combined with our fragility, our woundedness, causes us to close up against one another. When we are hurt, angry, rejected, afraid, we wall ourselves off from the world. We retreat to "sit in darkness and the shadow of death," losing even the power sometimes to penetrate the walls of our own making. We make a hell of isolation for ourselves and are unable to break out of it.
Carried far enough this takes us over the edge, into the pit of no return: into mental reclusiveness, insanity -- even into the everlasting isolation of Hell if we refuse to let the love of God Himself draw us out. But even on an everyday level we have all experienced moments, days, longer or shorter periods in our lives when we were incapable of rejoining the human race by our own willpower. We "sat in the shadow of death" until someone came to us in love, broke through our imprisoning, pseudo-protective walls, and led us out. From this perspective we recognize Jesus as "Key of David." He is the one who opens and leads us out. He comes to us. He penetrates our defenses. And He does it through a love founded on relationship; -- as one of us, as a member of the family of David, of our human family.
The Opening Prayer of today's liturgy begins, "God of love and mercy..." To have "mercy" means to "come to the aid of another out of a sense of relationship." Its meaning is traced back to a Semitic root which means "womb," and it speaks of the kind of bonding which a mother has for the child of her womb. Mercy is not help given out of condescension. It is not a largesse to the unfortunate members of a category of human beings we look upon as being "other" and different from ourselves. We can only show "mercy" to those whom we recognize as being in relationship with us, identified in some way with ourselves. If we used the words "compassion" (to "feel with") and "pity" (from the Latin pietas, the bonding which unites families) according to their root meanings, these words would mean the same as "mercy.'"
Mercy is God's answer to the woundedness, the hurt, the anger, the fear, or to anything else which walls us off from life, from love, from society, from communion and community with others. God took flesh in the womb of Mary so that everything He did for us would be grounded in relationship. He chose to be born of a woman, born into a family, born into the family of the human race. He saves us as one of us, as a brother. He made us children of the Father along with Himself. He took us into Himself, with all of our sins and sinfulness, and made us members of His own Body. Then He went to the cross as identified with us, to expiate the sins of His own flesh.
And Mary, in the name of all humanity, models for us the response to Jesus that saves. At God's invitation she opened her womb to Him, she welcomed Jesus as the Key of David: "At the message of an angel she welcomed Your eternal Son and, filled with the light of Your Spirit, she became the temple of Your Word." In her, and through her response, the lock received the Key: all of us, the human race, opened ourselves to love and to grace, and allowed ourselves to be led out of "darkness and the shadow of death."
In the Garden of Eden, the first effect of sin was to make Adam and Eve "clothe themselves," hide their true selves, their spontaneity under defenses and reserves. Now, in response to Christ's coming we pray, "Key of David! Come -- lead us out of darkness and the shadow of death!"
Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry