O Adonai, and Leader of the house of Israel, Who appeared to Moses in the flame of the burning bush, and gave unto him the Law on Sinai: come and with an outstretched arm redeem us.
O Adonai, et dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammæ rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.
From the very opening scene of the Bible, human words have strained to wrangle, observe, and communicate God. “In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep” the ancient writer tells us.
Only “formless void” and “darkness” weren’t the words used. Instead, the original phrase was Tohu wa-bohu, and entire books have been written about that single concept. Looking over the fullest sense of the word, “void” and “darkness” seem to be the mildest faucets, as it also encompasses notions of chaos, emptiness, utter nothingness. So singular and impossible to explain was the situation that one of the words the used- bohu- appears nowhere else in the Bible except to describe that period pre-Creation.
God is a god of order. He drew order from primordial, indescribable chaos, and when He created something from nothing, He imbued order into the very fabric of His creation. Everywhere there are patterns and order- as obvious as 1, 2, 3 (or 1, 1, 2, 3)
If there’s a botanical reference in the Bible, I’m going to study it. Moses’ miraculous bush is a favorite of mine.
The current best guess is that it was a type of bramble, specifically Rubus sanctus, Holy Bramble, a thorny shrub of a plant, extremely long lived and related to blackberries and raspberries.
The original bush, it’s said, is not only still alive, but is the evergreen heart of St. Catherine’s monastery in the Sinai Peninsula.
In the ancient world, “to redeem” a person or thing meant to pay a ransom of sorts, to return what was lost through an exchange of money or other goods. In ancient Hebrew, there was always a familial bond at play in redemption- one redeemed a person or possession that belonged to the family but was lost through bondage to a debt. Strangers weren’t redeemed. New land wasn’t redeemed. Only that which was part of the family was redeemed. You and I are the family that Christ lost to the bondage of sin. And He redeemed us, He bought us back with the currency of His own Life. That little child born in a cold, dark stable came to trade His life for ours. And He invited very human agents to help in this inconceivable rescue mission- a young woman who could have literally died for her involvement, and a silent, faithful man whose mercy and compassion would foreshadow his foster Son’s. A cast of characters who seem chaotic and insignificant at first glance, yet arrange themselves into the perfect, uniquely suited people for the mission.
We long for you, O Adonai, head of the house of Israel, head of the universal Church, to burn inside our hearts, to help us order our lives justly, and to ransom us from our bondage to sin.