O clavis David!
O clavis David
et sceptrum domus Israel;
qui áperis et nemo claudit;
claudis et nemo áperit:
veni et educ vinctum de domo cárceris,
sedéntem in ténebris et umbra mortis.
“O key of David and sceptre of Israel, you who open and nobody then can close, who close and nobody then can open: come and lead the captive from prison; free those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.”
The last antiphon celebrated the descent of Jesus from the family of David; today’s antiphon, the middle of the sequence of seven great ‘O Antiphons’ at Vespers, does not recall his descent but looks forward to his royal power, of which David’s was only a shadow and prefiguration.
Here is the prophecy spoken by Isaiah: “He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the House of Judah. I place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; should he open, no one shall close, should he close, no one shall open. I drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will become a throne of glory for his father’s house.” The prophecy was made not about a king but about a mere Master of the Palace, Eliakim, whose family eventually sank into obscurity. But like so many Old Testament prophecies, this one receives a new lease of life as it is illuminated by the light of the rising Sun.