Archive for December 17th, 2016

The “O Antiphons” refer to the seven antiphons that are recited (or chanted) preceding the Magnificat during Vespers of the Liturgy of the Hours. They cover the special period of Advent preparation known as the Octave before Christmas, Dec. 17-23, with Dec. 24 being Christmas Eve and Vespers for that evening being for the Christmas Vigil. An octave is literal 8 days.  From the earliest time of the Church 8 is considered significant: 7 days of the creation, then on the 1st Day of the Week, the 8th day, the new creation:  Christ is risen!

The exact origin of the “O Antiphons” is not known. Boethius (c. 480-524) made a slight reference to them, thereby suggesting their presence at that time. At the Benedictine abbey of Fleury (now Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire), these antiphons were recited by the abbot and other abbey leaders in descending rank, and then a gift was given to each member of the community. By the eighth century, they are in use in the liturgical celebrations in Rome. The usage of the “O Antiphons” was so prevalent in monasteries that the phrases, “Keep your O” and “The Great O Antiphons” were common parlance. One may thereby conclude that in some fashion the “O Antiphons” have been part of our liturgical tradition since the very early Church.

The importance of “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)

 O Emmanuel.

According to Professor Robert Greenberg of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Benedictine monks arranged these antiphons with a definite purpose. If one starts with the last title and takes the first letter of each one – Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai,Sapientia – the Latin words ero cras are formed, meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come.” Therefore, the Lord Jesus, whose coming we have prepared for in Advent and whom we have addressed in these seven Messianic titles, now speaks to us, “Tomorrow, I will come.” So the “O Antiphons” not only bring intensity to our Advent preparation, but bring it to a joyful conclusion.  

Notably, the Great O Antiphons are the basis of the great Advent Hymn: O, Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

December 17th:

O Sapientia:

Isaiah had prophesied, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” (11:2-3), and “Wonderful is His counsel and great is His wisdom.” (28:29).  St. Paul points out that, “… the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Corinthians 1: 25.  Jesus is the Wisdom of God.  He was weak to show forth the power of our salvation in every Word and Work He did and finally and fully in the weakness of the manger and Cross bearing our sin.    In Proverbs 8 and 9, Wisdom is personified as a woman:  

Wisdom has built her house;
   she has hewn her seven pillars.
2She has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine;
   she has also set her table.
3She has sent out her young women to call
   from the highest places in the town,
4 “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
    To him who lacks sense she says,
5“Come, eat of my bread
   and drink of the wine I have mixed.
6Leave your simple ways, and live,
    and walk in the way of insight.”

She invites the simple to her table.  The Lord invites the simple to His Table to walk in His Way, the way of insight and live.

 Oh, come, Oh, come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Oh, come, our Wisdom from on high, 
Who ordered 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!

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See Daniel 3: 16-18

Lord God, heavenly Father, You rescued Daniel from the lions’ den and the three young men from the fiery furnace through the miraculous intervention of an angel. Save us now through the presence of Jesus, the Lion of Judah, who has conquered all our enemies through His blood and taken away all our sins as the Lamb of God, who now reigns from His heavenly throne with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Daniel the prophet and the Three Young Men—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—were among the leaders of the people of Judah who were taken into captivity in Babylon. Even in that foreign land they remained faithful to the one true God in their piety, prayer, and life. On account of such steadfast faithfulness in the face of pagan idolatry, the Three Young Men were thrown into a fiery furnace, from which they were saved by the Lord and emerged unharmed (Daniel 3). Similarly, Daniel was thrown into a pit of lions, from which he also was saved (Daniel 6). Blessed in all their endeavors by the Lord—and in spite of the hostility of some—Daniel and the Three Young Men were promoted to positions of leadership among the Babylonians (Dan 2:48–493:306:28). To Daniel in particular the Lord revealed the interpretation of dreams and signs that were given to King Nebuchadnezzar and King Belshazzar (Daniel 2, 4, 5). To Daniel himself the Lord gave visions of the end times. Source: Treasury of Daily Prayer

Reflection:  Today’s Daily Lectionary readings, which are unrelated to the Commemoration of Daniel and the Three Men are:  Isaiah 33: 1-24 and Revelation 5:1-14 and yet these readings have much in common with Daniel.  Both these Old Testament and New Testament readings are directly about God’s people in the midst of the kingdoms/nations of this world, as is the Book of Daniel. Israel was making alliances with the foreign superpowers around them instead of trusting in the Lord. Israel had by this time a sad record of worshiping false gods, even their own unappeasable appetites. Revelation is set in the midst of the rulers of the Roman Empire, the whore of Babylon and the 7 Churches are apostasizing.  John reassured him that in the scroll of history, the One who has conquered, “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David” (Rev. 5:1-5) is worthy to open the scrolls. He is the LORD, crucified and risen. He is, “…the ruler of kings on earth” (Rev. 1: 5). He fully entered into the sin of human history and “…suffered under Pontius Pilate”.  He entered into the fiery furnace.  Daniel and the Three Men were faithful, as a synagogue in exile, strangers in a strange land, as was Isaiah and John and the faithful Church. They stood out against the worldly powers about them.  They were also all persecuted in varying degrees. Does the Church in our nation so stand out?

We just finished a tumultuous presidential election. Now a couple of televangelists are claiming that Mr. Trump is the forerunner of the Messiah  or actually the Christ.  In a similar vein someone eight years ago made 14 day votive candles with the image of Mr. Obama . Unlike Isaiah, John and Daniel, we can say in this blessed land we have no king.  So let us not go hankering after one…especially Christians.  David French, in a National Review article, ended his excellent piece, “Trumpocalypse:  The World has not ended, yet” (NR, December 19, 2016) with this sentence:

“The president may be the most important man in politics, but the presidency is far from the most important institution in American life.”

We are forgetting this is to our own disgrace as we chase after false messiahs, gods and devils for salvation. The true King came into His world silently through the back door. Isaiah, John and Daniel did not bend the knee to the statues made of gold.  This is for our encouragement so we will not bow down.  There are way far more important institutions in this nation and two come to mind:  Christ’s Church and the family and both are intimately related. Let us not go whoring after other so-called gods to save us and listen to God’s Word from Isaiah for this day:

 “For the LORD  is our judge; the LORD is our lawgiver;  the LORD is our King;  He will save us. ” (33: 22).

 Let the Lord’s people give the Amen.


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