Dominus Historiae: Part I

Continuing my review of Jean Daniélou’s The Lord of History from here.

These first ten essays explore various issues relevant to the Christian theologian of history. His primary aim is to explore the relationship between religious concepts and historical concepts, between sacred history and secular history. Repeatedly, Daniélou offers us two contrasting Christian responses, only to reject them both in favor of a way that preserves the best in each. Throughout, he remains rooted in scripture and the Church Fathers, but contemporary issues are never far from his mind.

The first five essays focus on the Church as it is incarnate in the world, dealing in turn with the difficulties of manifesting in various times, cultures, and classes. The following five essays explore theoretical questions raised in the preceding, offering a theology of history that directly responds to Marxists, secular historians, syncretists, and in general those wary of the Catholic approach. It culminates in a definition and defense of the symbolic structure of sacred history and its methodological key: typology.

Perhaps the most helpful definitions to keep in mind are those of salvation/sacred history and profane/secular history. I will repeat them here. Sacred history encompasses the progressive work of God in time for the salvation of the cosmos. In Daniélou’s view, this is the inner reality of all history, what gives time shape and meaning. Secular history includes the “surface” of history, the great deeds of nations and people, the always-changing fortunes of civilization. As Daniélou explains in his first chapter, the Church is implicated in both modes of history.

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O Rex Gentium: Meditations on the O Antiphons


The sixth O Antiphon is to the King of Nations.

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,
quem de limo formasti.

O king of nations, and their desire,
and cornerstone, who makes them one,
come, and save humankind,
which you formed from clay.

This antiphon follows the theme of triumph begun in the last one. If O Oriens shows how the incarnation prefigured the cosmic dawn of Christ’s resurrection, O Rex Gentium depicts the ascended Christ enthroned over the world. He has taken up not only David’s scepter but the scepter of heaven, subjecting all powers in heaven and earth to himself.

Three messianic titles appear in the first two lines: “king of nations,” “desire of nations,” and “cornerstone, making them one” (cf. Jeremiah 10:7, Haggai 2:7, and Ephesians 2:20 respectively). These images together suggest the fullness of his presence: he is over us as king, he is with us as beloved, and he is at our foundation as cornerstone. He binds us to the Godhead, to his incarnate person, and to one another.

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