For each of the ancient “O Antiphon” prayers in this week preceding Christmas, I will be offering prayers and a variation on an Old Fashioned.
Today’s O Antiphon: “O Desire of Nations”
This is a beautiful Messianic title. Jesus is king not simply when it comes to authority and power, but also as the object of our desire and affections. And having a common desire is meant to unify, not divide. The prayer reminds us that God formed us for himself and we are not truly ourselves until we are in him. It also emphasizes the global nature of this People he has called he has called as his own.
Today’s Prayer & Scripture
O King of the Nations and their Desired One, the Cornerstone that makes us one: Come, and deliver us, whom you formed out of the dust of the earth.
The title here comes from an older translation of Haggai 2:7: “I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory”. For further reflection, you can read Isaiah 2:1-5 for a picture of the peace that God brings to the nations. Also read Ephesians 2:11-22 to see what this looks like on an interpersonal level when Christ is the cornerstone of our life together
The Drink: Ambassador O’Fashioned
- 2oz Brown Butter-Washed Rum
- .5oz Creme de Cacao
- 2 dashes Peychauds Bitters
- 2 dashes Citrus Bitters
- .25oz Pimento (Allspice) Dram Rinse
- Garnish with Pecan
Put Pimento Dram in glass and swirl around until it coats the inside of the glass. Discard the excess and add ice to your glass. Stir remaining ingredients in separate glass and strain into your drinking glass. Garnish with pecan.
This is the most idiosyncratic drink of the bunch with the most complex flavor profile. Inspired by this prayer, I tried to bring together techniques and ingredients that represent numerous and complex international imperial histories, both good and bad, and tried to bring them into a unity.
Scotland, still under British imperial rule, provides the base of scotch here (Johnnie Walker Red). It is brown butter-washed, which is a 17th-century technique colonial Americans began doing with British-imported spirits (there are many online tutorials on how to do this easily).
I’m using the greatest creme de cacao out there, Tempus Fugit’s, which is shamefully hard-to-find. It is made with Venezuelan cocoa and Mexican vanilla, and using a 19th-century French-English recipe. Peychaud’s Bitters comes from the French Quarter of New Orleans, itself rich with complex imperial history.
The rinse I’m using is the Hamilton Ministry of Rum Piemnto Dram, made from a blend of Jamaican Pot Still Rums and seasoned with Allspice, a name given by the English to a Jamaican pepper. Lastly, the Pecan was originally cultivated by Indigenous Americans (and gave it the name we still use).
So what does all this taste like? Well, the scotch plus creme de cacao tastes just like boozy buttersctoch candy. It’s weird. The rinse and Peychauds contributes a bitter, dark spice flavor that could be polarizing, but I think it’s interesting. The citrus bitters serve to just brighten it up a little because it can otherwise by a little heavy.
A Little Deeper (If You Want)
All of these O Antiphon prayers are from the 12th-century and were originally written in Latin. There are numerous translations of these prayers with subtle but meaningful differences between each. I’ve tried to balance literalness with beauty. However, brushing off my high school and college Latin skills, I found the grammar of this one especially dense and interesting.
First, most English translations will say “O King of the Nations”, but the word is actually referring to the biblical use of “nations”, as in non-Jewish Gentiles specifically. The Latin word is Gentium.
That’s why the second line is, literally, “the cornerstone, making both one”. This prayer is not about a general unity of a bunch of individuals. It is about God’s work to unify his singular chosen ethnic people and his chosen global spiritual people, making them “both” one.
Relatedly, the next line literally is “come, and save humanity“, with that last word being singular, not plural. God does not save persons, but saves a people, and we cry out for him to finish doing so.
Lastly, the final line of this prayer, when translated word for word, is “whom from slime you formed.” It’s referring to God forming Adam from clay and dirt, but it intentionally uses this word for gross, muddy, slime rather than the usual word for dust. It’s a fascinating juxtaposition. The prayer begins with God being the king of humanity, the object of their desire, the one who has fashioned all of history to choose and save them all as a people, and then it says the object of all that divine attention and saving is…. slime.
It’s even more stunning considering that the very next prayer–our last one–cries out to God as Emmanuel: God with us. We acknowledge we are slime and then confess that God has come among the slime to be with us.
[art credit: “Triumph of Christianity” by Tommaso Laureti]