By Sister Marilyn King 

O King of all the nations and desire of all, you are the cornerstone that binds the two into one. Come and save your people who you fashioned out of clay! 

What speaks to me about this title “King of all the nations”? This antiphon resonates very much with me—because I was born a King! Not of all nations, surely, but because I was born a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. King in the Sunset District of San Francisco. That being said, for most citizens of a democracy this title of “King” in the O Antiphon “O Rex Gentium” probably needs some unpacking. 

This antiphon begins proclaiming Christ as not just a ruler of a geographical section of the world, but as the center of all creation, the ruler of all people. This world of relationships is centered in Jesus—not just lorded over by Jesus. This hierarchy that Jesus embodies is built on Jesus as its cornerstone. This King of all the nations is the one in whom all are related, conjoined. This King gives each individual an importance as being an essential part of the whole. Thus, the earthly clay of the many stones is molded and positioned into a cornerstone of one reality—the people of God, the members of the kingdom who unite under the King of all. 

So why then does the biblical source of the antiphon go on to assert that this regal cornerstone has been rejected? What is it about the stone whose purpose is to be essential to the building of a single structure that it needs to be rejected? 

As we know, so much of the gospel story leads to the rejection of the One who ends up nailed to a cross. So much pondering and preaching and writing found in the tradition of our church has issued from this question: Why was Jesus, the cornerstone, rejected and ultimately killed? 

One answer to this question can be found in the phrase in the antiphon being explored here: “You are the cornerstone that binds the two into one.” 

Surely, union with another has many positive aspects to it: companionship, mutual support, sharing of talents-to name a few. This is especially true if the 11other” is Christ, “the King of the nations.” What more could we ever ask for beyond being “bound into Christ”? 

Binding with another, however, is not an easy task. It doesn’t happen without effort for it calls for the dissolving of the “me” into the other—the shaping of the Many who are unique and different from each other into a One. This reshaping is especially challenging since a substantial part of the “me” is composed of earthly material, fashioned from clay. How easily that material falls apart, breaks, detaches from what it was previously as it is reconfigured into an Other. “Binding with another” doesn’t even take into account the intricacies of the human, non­ material personality. 

In the case of stones destined to be fashioned into a building—when they are simply lined up, one by the other, they are not yet building blocks. A “higher power” has to come onto the scene to position the rocks in a way that makes them more than just rocks but building blocks. This “higher power” determines what/who will be the cornerstone. This choice of cornerstone is central to the planning of the building, dependent on its strength and positioning is the skill of the builder. And today’s antiphon fittingly infers that Christ—”the king of all the nations”—is this higher power—the cornerstone that binds the two into one, that unites all clay-based people into one living structure.