Thinking Faith has been sharing a series of reflections on the O Antiphons this Advent. In a reflection on the last antiphon in the series—but the first in a popular Advent hymn—Frances Murphy writes of “O Emmanuel.” The traditional lyrics call, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.” Murphy writes:
An exile is someone who is separated from the place they call home. That relationship defines them. Without that connection, they would be free from the mournful longing for a particular place, but they would then just be a wanderer. Our task is to make ourselves exiles rather than wanderers: to orient ourselves towards God and long to abide in Him rather than to wander aimlessly in separation from Him. It’s a twofold process: to cultivate a deepest desire for God; and to recognise why we are exiled, distanced from Him, to recognise what we are held captive by.