17 December 2012

O Sapientia

O Wisdom, who came forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly; come, and teach us the way of prudence.

It's December 17! We begin the final stretch of Advent this evening with the O Antiphons. Each antiphon invokes one of the Scriptural attributes of Christ, referring to Isaiah's prophecy of the Messiah. By praying them in English, we miss the acrostic hidden in the Antiphons: read backwards, the first letters of the titles in Latin form the phrase "ero cras," or "I will be with you tomorrow." (The Antiphons begin tonight and end on December 23, as we celebrate Christ's birth the night of the 24).

For several centuries, the Church of England began their O Antiphons on December 16, adding an Antiphon invoking Our Lady: O Virgo virginum, or O Virgin of virgins. The acrostic then read "vero cras," or "truly, tomorrow." This practice, however, was not adopted by other Christians.

The Advent hymn "O Come O Come Emmanuel" is actually a musical setting of the O Antiphons. Include them in your prayer this evening by singing the verse:

O come, thou Wisdom from on high
Who orderst all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show
And teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice, rejoice; Emmanuel shall come to thee O Israel.

(Out of respect for a former schola director, I feel compelled to point out that we "dreadful American congregations" have an unfortunate tendency to add a comma after "Emmanuel" in that last line. Note the meaning of the text; we aren't telling Emmanuel to rejoice--we're telling Israel to! It doesn't make any grammatical sense to put a break there.)

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