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Archive for December 17th, 2019

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 (God with us)

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.

THE FIRST O ANTIPHON

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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 readings are 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 were leaving the Faith of the Church in Christ  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 as He did for Daniel’s brothers when they were thrown into the fiery furnace for not worshiping false gods:

24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.” (Daniel chapter 5)

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 persecuted in varying degrees. Does the Church in our nation so stand out?

As Americans, we have no political king as we are governed by the Constitution.  Yet, too many want to rule and not serve in politics, culture and churches.  Many 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 made by government and culture and society.  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 be encouraged by Daniel and  his brothers in a foreign pagan nation. We can so easily be bogged down in the daily political grind which will grind us down, as Daniel knew.

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
    out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
    making my steps secure. (Psalm 40)

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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