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O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,

the hope of the nations and their Savior:

Come and save us, O Lord our God.

On December 23, 2021, the seventh and final O Antiphon climaxes these pleas for deliverance. As if to augment Yahweh’s power even more, previously used Messianic titles are added to Emmanuel, found in Isaiah 7:14.  

Emmanuel, a prophetic name meaning God-with-us, first appeared in the prophecy of Isaiah, 736 BCE, when enemies of the Judean King Ahaz sought to destroy Jerusalem…the maiden is with child and will soon give birth to a son whom she will call Emmanuel—A mysterious prophecy that still seizes the imaginations of believers, an intimacy that whispers in all life forms.

Yet, how access this power to waylay enemies, wherever discovered? Evil is real; ancient Israelites as well as ourselves have always needed guidance and protection.  On our own, this is impossible.

Again, the imperatives, Come and save us, conclude this O Antiphon and prepare us for the celebration of the full Christmas mysteries.

Indeed, God is intimately with us—that never changes.

From wintry darkness emerges the Old Testament prophet Zephaniah who concludes his short prophecy with a Psalm of Joy:

Yahweh your God is in your midst,

As a victorious warrior.

He will exult with joy over you,

He will renew you by his love;

He will dance with shouts of joy for you

As on a day of festival.

These consoling interventions of Yahweh God are addressed to the anawim or lowly, poverty-stricken Jews living in Judea under the reign of the corrupt King Josiah in the seventh century, BCE. These are the remnant who remained faithful to the law of Moses; they’ve not engaged in the worship of Baal, a pagan goddess of agriculture, nor any filthy practices of their neighbors.

What precedes this Psalm of Joy, however, are Zephaniah’s condemnation of the religious and moral corruption of his people and the dire destruction of Judea on the Day of Yahweh. Underscoring these shattering pronouncements is Zephaniah’s sense of sin as a moral offence against the living God: abomination of abominations.

In my perception, nothing has changed much—even the scraggly street preacher (that I once saw while stopped at a red light) and his words, “Jesus saves! Jesus saves! “careening from his hand-held microphone under a sweltering sun.

Yet, this Psalm of Joy is included in today’s readings for the Third Sunday of Advent celebrated in the Christian liturgy. There’s still time to learn …

My interest in the Native American presence in the nineteenth-century state of Missouri led to the heartbreaking read, The Ioway in Missouri by Greg Olson, the Curator of Exhibits at the Missouri State Archives: heartbreaking because of the spiritual, emotional, psychological, and physical dissolution of the Ioway tribe, between 1800 to 1837. 

Central to this dissolution was the Supreme Court’s 1827 adoption of the Doctrine of Discovery, found in international law and first practiced by the Crusaders taking over lands of vanquished Turks, perceived as pagans and unfit. In the fifteenth century, this precedent was published in four Papal bulls. Thus protected, American and European settlers headed west, especially following the1803 Louisiana Purchase. No matter that Native Americans were already there. “They’d have to change, be like us.”

From the mid 1700s, however, the Ioway tribe enjoyed a rich presence in and around what constitutes the state of Missouri. Their rituals, tradition, and practices bound them to the earth, perceived as sacred, and to their ancestors in the afterlife from whom they were influenced. From sunup to sundown, theirs was a predictable world, when not warring with another tribe, usually over hunting rights.   

Greg Olson’s use of primary sources, accompanied by photos and maps, makes those thirty-seven years bleed. Misunderstandings, language differences, the violation of multiple treaties, greed, dishonesty, and impatience justify the most stinking aberrations. In 1837, the government removed the Ioway to the Great Nemaha Reservation in the state of Oklahoma, a barren stretch of land where extreme poverty and alcoholism enervated the Ioway even more.

Yet, The Ioway in Missouri concludes with an inspiring epilogue. The Ioway still survive in Kansas and Nebraska and preserve their traditions.

Available on Amazon

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