O clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel; qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit: veni et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris et umbra mortis.
O Key of David, and scepter of the house of Israel: You open and no one closes, you close and no one opens. Come, and from the house of bondage lead forth the prisoner and those sitting in darkness and the shadow of death.
O God of the magic keys,
how I long for you!
Yours alone is the royal gateway to freedom,
and the sovereign power to open wide its doors;
both opening and closure are in your hands.
Come and unlock our prison doors,
dissolve the shadows of death
in the light of your presence.
December 20, and five more shopping days until Christmas. I am confronted with the specter of a Princess Pop-Up Castle Tent. This castle, however, comes with neither royal keys nor a scepter that would help me imagine the ancient symbols of power invoked in today’s O-Antiphon. Instead: “The lovely combination of lilac and pink will coordinate perfectly with the matching princess bedding.” The castle does feature “door and mesh windows,” but primarily “for extra ventilation.” There is nothing in this castle that helps me understand the O-Antiphon’s powerful imagery of opening and closing doors through the royal power of the keys. Could it be the gender of the imagined castle owner that removes this Princess Pop-Up Castle Tent from the symbolic world of power and sovereignty? As a woman contemplating the ancient symbol of the power of keys in royal hands, I am dissatisfied. Stereotypical gender constructions are nothing if not part of the house of bondage we live in. But this gendered house of bondage is as real in the world of faith as it is in the world of Bed Bath & Beyond.
The O-Antiphon for today, after all, images God as sovereign; but hardly anyone praying this text will conjure up the vision of a queen who wisely wields her sovereign power. Maybe this is where Bed Bath & Beyond can assist the religious imagination, so caught in its own gendered world: Do we really have to continue to link divine power with masculinity? Why not imagine the magic keys in the hands of a divine presence that is powerful, yet not male? What if God were Queen of heaven?
There are three more O-Antiphons and four more shopping days to ponder the tensions I live with.