Advent 3: O Key of David

 

 

 

O Key of David and Sceptre of the house of Israel; that openest and no man shutteth; and shuttest and no man openeth: come to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death!

O Antiphon for Dec 20th

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Bede’s Homily 1.3 (Advent 3):

‘To a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.’ What is said of the house of David pertains not only to Joseph, but also to Mary. Now it was a precept of the law that everyone should take a wife from his own tribe and family. (Nb 36:7-8) The Apostle attested to his when he wrote Timothy, stating, ‘Remember, therefore, that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, has risen from the dead in accordance with my gospel.’ For the Lord truly rose from the seed of David because his incorrupt mother took her origin from David’s stock. …

And the Lord God will give him the seat of his father David’. The seat of David refers to the kingdom of the Israelite populace, which in his time David governed with the faithful devotion, at the Lord’s order, as well as with his help. Therefore the Lord gave our Redeemer the seat of his father David when he arranged that he become incarnate from David’s offspring, so that the people whom David had ruled with temporal sovereignty he might with spiritual grace bring to an eternal kingdom. As the Apostle says, ‘He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of his charity.‘ (Col 1:13*) Thus it was that when he was hastening to Jerusalem to suffer, this same people, prompted by divine impulse, sang his praise rejoicing, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel!’ (Jn 12:13) And according to another evangelist, ‘Blessed is the kingdom of our father David which comes!’ (Mk 11:10)

… Nor should we wonder that according to the historical sense Elizabeth is said to be the cousin of Mary, since earlier we are told that one [Mary] arose from the house of David, and the other [Elizabeth] arose from the daughters of Aaron. Now we read that it was from the tribe of Judah, from which David arose, that Aaron himself received his wife, namely Elizabeth the daughter of Amminadab and sister of Nahshon, who was the leader of the tribe of Judah in the desert when they came out of Egypt (Ex 6.23, Nb 1:7; 7:12). In addition, regarding the later Davidic kings we read that Jehoiada the high-priest had a wife of the kingly tribe, this being Jehosheba the daughter of King Joram. This is the Johoiada whose son Zachariah, a man who was likewise very holy, they stoned between the temple and the altar, as the Lord himself bore witness when he made mention of the blessed martyrs in the gospel (Mt 23:35, Luke 11:51). Hence it is proven that both tribes, the priestly and the royal, were always joined to each other by blood relationship. However, it was possible for a joining of this sort to occur in a more recent time too, with the giving of women in marriage from tribe to tribe, so that it is clearly a fact that the blessed mother of God, who descended from the royal tribe, and this was most aptly fitting to heavenly mysteries.

Now when the Mediator between God and human beings appeared in the world, it was fitting that he had his physical origin from both tribes because in the humanity which he assumed, he would possess the roles of both priest and king. On the one hand, the present reading from the holy gospel bears witness concerning his royal power, by which he bestowed an everlasting reign on his elect, for he will reign in the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom there will be no end. Concerning his dignity as high-priest, on the other hand, in which he deigned to offer the sacrificial offering of his flesh for our redemption, the prophet bears witness when he says, You are a priest forever in accordance with the order of Melchisedech. (Ps 110:4)”

 

 

I thought this exerpt of Bede’s advent homily on Luke 1:26-38 is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, we can see Bede the historian working out a Biblical problem: explaining how Jesus is from the seed of David. I’m not sure that he really does work it out because his argument about marriages between tribes in explaining Mary and Elizabeth’s kinship could undermine his argument about Mary being of David’s house. I suppose it could be argued that intermarriage between the tribes was unique to the priestly tribes/houses because they were scattered amongst the other tribes. Second, Bede is clearly associating Jesus with the messiah of psalm 110, as being of the order of Melchisedeck, in a way that seems to contradict the Epistle to the Hebrews. The epistle clearly says that Jesus is of the order of Melchisedeck because he is not from any priestly family, not of the order of Aaron or the tribe of Levi.

Bede’s mention of the names Elizabeth as a wife to Aaron and the prophet Zachariah as being a product of a marriage between royal and priestly tribes are an interesting repeating of the names in the parentage of John the Baptist. Not sure what that means, if anything.

* The editors note that ‘of his charity’ is a unique reading to Bede’s homily.

Bede the Venerable, Homilies on the Gospels: Book One Advent to Lent. Lawrence T Martin and David Hurst OSB, trans. Cistercian Publications, 1991.

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