O Clavis, O Key!
Of all the mystic titles of Christ, this is the one that connects most closely with our ‘secular’ psychology. We speak of the need on the one hand for ‘closure’ and on the other for ‘unlocking’, for ‘opening’, for ‘liberation’. The same ideas are also there in the lines from O Come O Come Emmanuel that are drawn from this antiphon, which could easily be part of anybody’s work in good therapy:
“Make safe the way that leads on high,
and close the path to misery.”
I see this antiphon, and the sonnet I wrote in response to it, as the ‘before’ picture that precdes the beautiful fifth antiphon O Oriens about Christ as the Dayspring and when l wrote this sonnet I found that I had at last written something clear about my own experience of depression. I hope that others who have been in that darkness will find it helpful.
I am grateful to the photographer Margot Krebs Neale for the images on this page.
You can learn more about the antiphons from Julia Holloway’s wonderful site Umilita
This Advent sequence of sonnets is now part of my larger Sequence, Sounding the Seasons which goes right through the Christian Year from Advent to the Feast of Christ the King. You can obtain it directly from Canterbury Press, From Blackwell’s or from Amazon, or order it in to your local bookstore.
As before there should be a play button just before the poem for you to hear the antiphon sung and the poem read aloud. Alternatively you can click the hyperlink on the poem’s title and listen to it on my audioboo page.
O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;
you open and no one can shut;
you shut and no one can open:
Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,
those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death
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.
Even in the darkness where I sit
And huddle in the midst of misery
I can remember freedom, but forget
That every lock must answer to a key,
That each dark clasp, sharp and intricate,
Must find a counter-clasp to meet its guard,
Particular, exact and intimate,
The clutch and catch that meshes with its ward.
I cry out for the key I threw away
That turned and over turned with certain touch
And with the lovely lifting of a latch
Opened my darkness to the light of day.
O come again, come quickly, set me free
Cut to the quick to fit, the master key.