December 20 – O Key of David

The O Antiphons | O Sapientia | O Adonai | O Radix Jesse |
O Clavis David | O Oriens | O Rex Gentium | O Emmanuel


O Clavis David

LATIN: 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.

ENGLISH: O Key of David, and scepter of the house of Israel, who opens and no man shuts, who shuts and no man opens: come, and lead forth the captive who sits in the shadows from his prison.

Here are a few references from Scripture:

And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. (Isaiah 22:22)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one shall shut, who shuts and no one opens. I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut; I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. (Revelation 3:7-8)

St. Peter holding the keys to Heaven in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican

St. Peter holding the keys to Heaven in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican

Both the key and the scepter are traditionally used as symbols of kingly authority and power. Christ is the heir of David and the possessor of the kingdom. Jesus himself used this symbol when he showed the prophetic relationship of the earthly kingdom of David to the kingdom of God. All power and authority was given to him after the resurrection, and he entrusted this power to “bind and to loose” to Peter and the ministers of his Church in Matthew 6:19.

To point the way to His return Jesus gave us a visible point of reference as someone to exercise His own authority to open and to shut, to bind and to loose. He gave us His Church and the Vicar in the person of Peter and all of Peter’s successors. The key is David’s. It is the Lord’s. And the one who has the keys act’s with the authority of Christ and speaks with the voice of Christ.

As we head into Christmas, what are the sins, or chains, to which we are locked? What self-destructive habits, or even seemingly innocuous ones, do we perpetuate daily while at the same time telling ourselves it has to stop?

All of this serves to remind me that the Sacrament of Confession is available, and something I’d planned to do this Advent. I’ve yet to find anything to replace the grace and peace I experience afterwards and always walk out wondering why I don’t go more often.

Some chains bind tighter than others I guess.


The fourth O Antiphon is referred to in the following verse of O Come O Come Emmanuel:

Veni, Clavis Davidica, regna reclude caelica,
fac iter tutum superum, et claude vias inferum.

O Come, Thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heav’nly home,
make safe the way that leads on high,
that we no more have cause to sigh.


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