Monday, December 17, 2018

Advent 2018: O Antiphons

The O Antiphons will begin tonight, December 17, and continue through December 24th. They are such a centerpiece of the Advent liturgy that they were made into one of the most famous songs of Advent: "Veni, Veni Emmanuel."

Mary's Magnificat is part of the Vespers liturgy the year 'round. It is always preceded by an antiphon, recited before the "praying" of the song (songs and psalms are considered prayer in Christian liturgy). The "O" Antiphons for Advent were in liturgical use by the 8th century, and probably existed for some time before that. "The importance of the “O Antiphons” is twofold: Each one highlights a title for the Messiah: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Rising Sun), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), and O Emmanuel. Also, each one refers to the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah. " And they are "a unique work of art and a special ornament of the pre-Christmas liturgy, filled with the Spirit of the Word of God".

As is typical of Christian liturgy, "The antiphons are, in fact, a collage of Old Testament types of Christ. Their predominant theme is messianic, stressing the hope of the Savior's coming. Jesus is invoked by various titles, mainly taken from the prophet Isaiah. The sequence progresses historically, from the beginning, before creation, to the very gates of Bethlehem." But also, they are simply lovely; and worth contemplating as the Christmas rush swirls us into a vortex down a Venturi tube. A beginning point to re-focus the celebrations of the season, and the ending of the calendar year.

O Wisdom, O holy word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care; Come and show your people the way to salvation.

O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: Come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.

O Flower of Jesse's stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; rulers stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.

O Key of David, O royal power of Israel, controlling at your will the gate of heave: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and lead your captive people to freedom.

O radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal night, sun of justice: Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

O Ruler of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart, O Keystone of the mighty arch of humankind: Come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.

O Emmanuel, ruler and lawgiver, desire of the nations, savior of all people; Come and set us free, Lord our God.

And, as I noted in 2006 (something perhaps only a pastor would love):

That canon urges the constant presence of the faithful in the church, calling on them not to stay at home or run off to the country or the mountains during a period of twenty-one continuous days, beginning from December 17 and reaching to the Epiphany.

--Thomas Talley

Over 1600 years ago, people still had to be urged to attend worship during December.  It helps put Kipling in perspective.  Of course, Kipling helps put the modern church in perspective.


  1. Utterly off topic, but I did not write "racism is a thing of the past." Here is what I did write, "some of us, most of us, massive amounts of people in fact, have moved on to the present."

    It would be foolish to call racism a thing of the past. It is another kind to insist we are living in a state that resembles the nadir of race relations in the US. I consider 1890-1930s America possessing, to quote the moderator, "massive" racism. Today? I cannot find anything comparable.

  2. You aren't looking hard enough. Police shootings are not lynchings, but they are performed more publicly and with greater impunity.

  3. While police shootings are certainly a pox on our nation, I would argue without qualification that it is an issue that affects us all. Brazen use of force is undeniable, but as Roland G. Fryer, an economist at Harvard, noted, "The most granular data suggest that there is no bias in police shootings" before adding, "We cannot rest. We need more and better data."

    I agree. But fearful acquiescence to authority and their use of force seems a more reasonable explanation at present for the impunity, especially when considering the cases of unarmed white men being shot and the officers being unpunished (see: Daniel Shaver). There is video of Mr. Shaver's death. I have seen it, I would never suggest anyone else watch it. That a jury saw it and found the officer not guilty is just appalling.

  4. Also, re: Elizabeth Warren.

    Believing her family came from Cherokee descent is a reasonable inference. We tend to believe our parents. Taking pride in her perceived heritage can be explained. I NEVER claimed that she used it as a cynical means of advancing her career at Penn and Harvard. The cookbook contribution I find kind of funny.

    BUT, to pretend that video she made wasn’t a move politically motivated and staged (even Trevor Noah, who supports her claim, had to admit in an aside that the faux drama created by the “revelation” was pretty awkward to watch) is na├»ve. To dismiss the criticism from members of the Cherokee Nation, including Chuck Hoskin, Jr. their Secretary of State, is disrespectful.

    Trump will not be paying that million dollars, and I can promise you Warren will not be saying anything further about it. Trump is a churlish blowhard. Warren is not, but she tried to play his game. She lost. She was wrong. Twain warned about arguing with a fool. She should have listened.

  5. There's a law of diminishing returns that applies to rebuttals, rather like the rule in the courtroom that rebuttal must be confined to the argument just made; as the rebuttals continue, the ground upon which the argument can be conducted gets smaller and smaller, the points of the argument less and less important.

    That same rule applies to internet arguments, especially where every word of the argument must be defended endlessly. Senator Warren didn't wander into this argument so much as she was dragged into it, and then she chose to continue the argument, not to her benefit. Not that the argument did Scott Brown or Donald Trump much good, either.

    There's a lesson there.

  6. I agree, except for the comment about her being drug into the argument. She could have, should have, let him continue to make a fool of himself, as he did during the ceremony honoring the Code Talkers.

    Now, instead of that being the final word, it will be him reTweeting the Cherokee Nation's official statement on the matter. Hopefully, if she runs, she's learned to focus on issues and his broken promise and let the man stick his own foot in his mouth.