Catholic Social Teaching: O Come O Come Emmanuel

Paul Keggington

December 12, 2011

On this Our Lady of  Guadalupe’s Feast, Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Kathleen Murphy looks at the Advent hymn ‘O Come O Come Emmanuel’ in the light of Catholic Social Teaching and the call to social justice.

We begin a new Church year with the new Roman Missal, new prayers, new responses and above all a search for a new heart in the spirit of the season of Advent.  We renew our consideration of the hymns we use by looking at them through the lens of Catholic Social teaching and the call to social justice.

Perhaps the most well known Advent hymn is “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”.  Let’s take a look at those well known lyrics to consider their relationship to the practice of social justice.  The very first verse pleads with God to send Emmanuel to ransom captive Israel.  As we well know, this is not just a statement from Bible History.  God’s people of all races and creeds remain captive throughout our world.  Some are physically imprisoned unjustly.  Some are captives of a government that denies them the freedom to speak or practice their faith.  It is Emmanuel with us in the prayers and works of his people that will set these captives free.

We invoke Wisdom who orders all things asking for guidance in the path of knowledge.  We sing our prayer pleading that God will enlighten us in ways to bring peace and justice to His people.  The song continues to call on the Lord of Might citing His gift of the Law.  We ask that God’s laws of justice might prevail for all peoples.  We ask that we and our brothers and sisters be delivered from our foes, spiritual and in the flesh.  We ask the Key of David to close the path to misery and we call on the Dayspring to put death’s dark shadow to flight.  This includes those on death row, those in the path of war and violence everywhere.  Finally we call on Emmanuel the Desire of nations to bind all people as one.  What greater prayer for social justice could we offer?  Let us sing to the Lord who is coming!

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