December 18: O Adonai

O Adonai et dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in bracchio extento. 

O Adonai, and leader of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the fire of the flaming bush and on Sinai gave him the law, come to redeem us with an outstretched arm.

O Holy One with the unnamable name, 

how I long for you! 

You are a warrior god, 

a fiery presence. 

You defend without end the people you claimed as your own. 

Come, O powerful redeemer, 

open wide your arms in our defense. 

December 18, and seven more shopping days until Christmas. The O-Antiphons conjure up God’s fiery presence in a burning bush. Bed Bath & Beyond advertises a Feng Shui Candle Gift Set. The candles “follow in the tradition of feng shui—a way of living harmoniously with the natural environment.” The burning bush, on the other hand, seems quite destructive of the harmony of the natural environment, even if it did not actually consume the bush. From the description of the gift set, I learn that each Feng Shui candle “represents one of the elements believed to affect one’s fortune according to Ancient Chinese legend.” I assume that the burning bush is an “Ancient Hebrew legend” that would not help sales of anything much this Christmas season. The Feng Shui Candle Gift Set, on the other hand, comes with “instructions on finding your element and even what direction to face your candle while burning it”—all for $14.99.

Come, warrior god, fiery presence, powerful redeemer, open your arms wide to defend me. But against what? The Feng Shui Candle Gift Set cannot possibly be the enemy. What, then, is? There are five more O-Antiphons and six more shopping days to ponder these questions.

O Adonai copy


  1. I’m really not happy with “warrior-God” in this context; it seems to smack of crude stereotypes of Judaism. I know that one can seek out texts and traditions to justify this use of language, but it really doesn’t seem to me to be apposite to the finesse of the ‘O Adonai’, which has a much more subtle and eirenic tone.

    1. @Ian Coleman – comment #1:
      I appreciate your concern, Ian. On certain days, I share it. Yet I also think it important to safeguard this powerful image of God — and who God is for us — at a time when the stereotypical notion of God seems to be that he is “nice”.
      I was further inspired by women in Affican American churches who are known as “prayer warriors” — strong, wise women who know how to intercede/stand up and in, for others.

  2. “The burning bush, on the other hand, seems quite destructive of the harmony of the natural environment, even if it did not actually consume the bush.”
    Quite the opposite, I think. The Latin phrase to encapsulate the burning bush is “Ardens sed virens” – “Burning and yet flourishing”. The divine presence is revealed in a simple created thing, shining through and yet not in any way destroying the reality of the physical creation. This we see too in the “Incarnation” – the full presence of the Divine in the full reality of human flesh.
    “Take off your sandals” – I used to think that there must be something wrong with the footwear! Now I understand it as saying to us that there are to be no barriers between us and the Divine: the human foot, easily soiled in our walk through life, brings us to direct contact with the Holy. And yet we are not consumed; rather we are ablaze with the glory of God.

    1. @Pádraig McCarthy – comment #2:
      Your response is beautiful. I agree with what you say. My description was mostly a way of lightly poking fun at the (silly?) description of fend shui candles…

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