Come, O King of Nations


Today’s O Antiphon is below—in its Latin, English, and adapted forms. Subscribers can keep reading below the image for a short reflection and another response poem by the brilliant Fr. Malcolm Guite. I hope these brief moments of reading and reflection help you capture the heart of Advent in this busy final week before Christmas.

O Rex Gentium

Latin Text
O rex gentium, et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum,
(veni, et) salva hominem quem de limo formasti

English Translation O King of the nations, and their desire, the cornerstone making both one: Come and save the human race, which you fashioned from clay.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel Adaptation O come, Desire of nations, bind In one the hearts of all mankind; Bid Thou our sad divisions cease, And be Thyself our King of Peace.

A Poetic Response, by Fr. Malcolm Guite

The original Latin version of this O Antiphon draws our focus to the creative nature of the King of Nations. (This is, unfortunately, lost in the hymn adaptation.) Yes, Jesus is the King of all, but he is also the one who formed our very race from clay.

And—as is entirely appropriate on this penultimate day of Advent—Guite draws us to the humility of the King taking on the form of clay in his Incarnation, before reminding us that it is Jesus’ first and second Advents that prepare us for his final Advent.

His work of shaping us is not yet complete.

O Rex Gentium / O King of Nations

O King of our desire whom we despise, King of the nations never on the throne, Unfound foundation, cast-off cornerstone, Rejected joiner, making many one, You have no form or beauty for our eyes, A King who comes to give away his crown, A King within our rags of flesh and bone. We pierce the flesh that pierces our disguise, For we ourselves are found in you alone. Come to us now and find in us your throne, O King within the child within the clay, O hidden King who shapes us in the play Of all creation. Shape us for the day Your coming Kingdom comes into its own.