HOMILY, December 19, 2017 – Communal Penance Service at Our Mother of Confidence –
The O Antiphons
Christmas is time of gift-giving. Have you ever noticed that when a child opens a gift, he/she says with excitement OOOOOOO? Adults say O as well. Even if we receive a gift that we don’t even know what it is after we’ve opened it, we say O?
The last week of Advent, specifically from December 17th to the 23rd. is a week of saying O for the anticipation of the ultimate Christmas gift —Jesus Christ. There are seven short verses sung before the Magnificat during Evening Prayer of the Church on the seven days before the vigil of Christmas. They each begin with the exclamation “O”. Each of them ends with a plea for the Messiah to come. As Christmas approaches the cry becomes more urgent.
The antiphons were composed in the seventh or eighth century when monks put together texts from the Old Testament which looked forward to the coming of our salvation. These seven verses, or antiphons as they are called, appear to be the originals although from time to time other texts were used. They became very popular in the Middle Ages. While the monastic choirs sang the antiphons the great bells of the church were rung.A curious feature of these antiphons is that the first letter of each invocation may be taken from the Latin to form an acrostic in reverse.
So, the first letters of Sapientia, Adonai, Radix, Clavis, Oriens, Rex, and Emmanuel, provide the Latin words: ERO CRAS. The phrase spells out the response of Christ himself to the heartfelt prayer of his people: “Tomorrow I will be there”.
O Sapientia or O Wisdom (December 17)
O Wisdom (Eccl 24: 5),
You came forth from the mouth of the Most High (Sir 24: 30), and reaching from beginning to end You ordered all things mightily and sweetly (Wis 8: 1). * Come, and teach us the way of prudence (Isa 40: 14). Have I been prudent? Have I gossiped about others? Have I told the truth about others, even knowing that it might ruin their reputation? Do I have a habit of forming quick-judgments of others, even if I hardly know them
O Adonai or O Lord and Ruler (December 18)
O Adonai (Exod 6: 13)
and Ruler of the house of Israel (Matt 2: 6), You appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush (Exod 3: 2) and on Mount Sinai gave him Your Law (Exod 20). * Come, and with an outstretched arm redeem us (Jer 32: 21). Am I able to rest in the Lord, and trust in his mercy? Do I have a need to let go of being in control? Do I insist on having my way?
O Radix Jesse or O Root of Jesse (December 19)
O Root of Jesse,
You stand for the ensign of mankind (Isa 11: 10); before You kings shall keep silence and to You all nations shall have recourse (Isa 52: 15). * Come, save us, and do not delay (Hab 2: 3). Do I get depressed easily if some challenge comes my way? Do I focus more on my challenges in life (physical, and spiritual) than on accepting God’s invitation to do the best with the gifts and limitations we have?
O Clavis David or O Key of David (December 20)
O Key of David, (Apoc 3: 7)
and Scepter of the house of Israel: You open and no man closes; you close and no man opens (Isa 22: 22). * Come, and deliver him from the chains of prison who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death (Ps 107: 10). Do I ever lose HOPE in God. Have I come to the point where I think God can’t help me?
O Oriens or O Rising Dawn or Morning Star (December 21)
O Rising Dawn, (Zac 6: 12),
Radiance of the Light eternal (Hab 3: 4) and Sun of Justice (Mal 3: 20): * come, and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death (Ps 107: 10; Lk 1: 78). Do I feel that I am in a spiritual rut, and I am unable to grow? Are there times when prayer seems to be more of a chore than a grace?
O Rex Gentium or O King of the Nations (December 22)
O King of the Gentiles (Hag 2: 8),
and the Desired of all, You are the Cornerstone that binds two into one (Eph 2: 20). * Come, and save man whom You fashioned out of clay (Gen 2: 7) Are there times when I have given up on the goodness of humanity? Am I part of the division in the world and in our country? Am I open to ideas which are different than my own?
O Emmanuel (December 23)
O Emmanuel (Isa 7: 14; 8: 8),
our King and Lawgiver (Gen 49:10; cf. Ezek 21: 32), the Expected of the nations and their Savior (Isa 33: 22): Come, and save us, O Lord our God. When I welcome the Lord at Christmas will it be a re-awakening of God’s presence in my life?