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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.

(The information above is cited from an article in Cyberbrethren)

December 17th:

O Sapientia:

“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.

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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Note:  An excellent article regarding angels is found on this blog:  St. Michael and All Angels, by A. L. Barry, a former President of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Note also the Angelic Quiz! But for today’s feast:

True/False:  Angels and men are both created by the Lord for praise.

Answer:  Yes.

Some years ago one of my sisters-in-law commented that she could not imagine heaven as continual singing.    G.K. Chesterton wrote that he found it amazing that the Lord created not one daisy but a million daisies.  Chesterton asked:  why?  Because the Lord does not tire in creating.  He  keeps on creating.  Chesterton then points out that in playing with children, they will say, do it again until the adult is plain exhausted. We have a hard time imagine ourselves always singing because the tired Old Adam  is waiting for the final redemption.  We are old.  Children are filled with the exuberance of life.  We are old but our Father is forever young:  do it again.

The sinless angels never tire  of praising. It is like  a song that we sing and love to repeat  in it’s fulsomeness. Do it again. Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemman says that man is homo adorans, worshiping man. We were made to adore that which is not us which is the other (in Greek:  hetero), not worship ourselves, our mirror image, that is , the same (in Greek: homo).

The angels of God worship: pray, praise and sing continually.  When the Lord reveals Himself to His prophet Isaiah in the Temple, the scene is one of worship and adoration:

1In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;

 the whole earth is full of his glory!”

 4And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, andthe house was filled with smoke.  Isaiah 6: 1-4

The thrice-Holy is sung every time in the Divine Liturgy:  “…with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Thy Holy Name, ever more praising Thee and singing:  Holy, Holy, Holy:  the very song of heaven.  We sing the thrice-Holy just before the Word of Institution.

The very song of heaven is liturgical.  On the island of Patmos, when John is granted the apocalypse (literally, revelation), he sees:

 11Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12saying with a loud voice, 

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”

 13And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” 

14And the four living creatures said,

“Amen!”

and the elders fell down and worshiped.

A question that plagues certain circles of the Church is about contemporary worship and the uplift that ‘praise hymns’ deliver.  The thinking is that Liturgy is stodgy and does not ‘reach’ people, especially young people.  But the exact opposite point is true:  worship is not to ‘reach people’ ,but God Who has first reached to us in His beloved Son and in the life of Israel.

Further some pastors will argue that Liturgy is not in the Bible.  It is!  Isaiah saw it.  So did John on Patmos.  The longest book in the Bible is a kind of a hymnbook filled with liturgical songs:  Psalms.  In fact, the Temple in Jerusalem was planned according to the Lord’s specs in heaven (see Exodus 25:8-10).  Now, in Christ Jesus, He is the Temple not made by human hands (see John 2:20-22) and,

“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” (Hebrews 1: 3)

And again, He showed to Moses, the various and many Psalmists and John the Word in worship and  “… God is not a God of confusion but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33). The worship of the Church in the Word is just not bound to one place any longer. Liturgical worship is both ordered and the order is in the Scriptures.  This is the heart of faith’s fulfillment of the 1st Commandment, and the 2nd and 3rd as well:  You shall have no other gods before Me.  The angels of God are witness to the true worship of the Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They do not worship themselves and their religious feelings but the fount of pure goodness.  “It often happens-and the danger seems greater today than in earlier times-that a liturgical community measures the achievement of a celebration against its own edification, according to the measure of how much the particpants take part in it and care up in it, instead of being captured by God and His gifts and letting Him take part”, so wrote Roman Catholic theogian, Hans Urs von Balthassar, and then he points out his can happen in both traditional and non-traditional forms.   “…the inclination of a community (is) to celebrate itself instead of God.” Doesn’t that ring true?

Liturgy can get us off ourselves and point us in the right direction. Further, so much contemporary worship is entertainment and in fact one Lutheran pastor extolled “entertainment evangelism”!  But entertainment is for the individual, not the community. We think worship is what I want.  Then it tends toward homolatreia (coined by Rev. Lou Smith), that is worship of the same, not the other and it is the functional synonym for idolatry.  But in  fact, praise itself is communal.  C. S. Lewis pointed out in his book on the Psalms that when we find something good and praiseworthy, we want to have someone else join us, “Isn’t this wonderful?”  Praise,he wrote, is it’s own appointed consummation.  Praise and worship will be consummate in the life of the world to come.  Do it again.  The angels teach us this by their adoration of the Lord.  And we have dress rehearsals every time we come together for prayer and liturgy.

God is glorious with His saints and angels:   Come, let us worship Him.

(Opening versicle for daily prayer)

Let us pray:

everlasting God, whose wise planning has ordained and constituted the ministry of men and angels in a wonderful order, mercifully grant that, as your holy angels always serve you in heaven, so by your appointment they may also help and defend us here on earth; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen

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Part I is  from the blog  Aardvark Alley

Part II is my reflection on the day.

Today we commemorate Saint Timothy, Pastor and Confessor. The festival days for Pastors Timothy and Titus are set on either side of the day marking Saint Paul’s conversion. This proximity reminds us of their connection with the apostle, including his establishing them in office and the letters he wrote to them.

Timothy grew up in the faith as taught by his mother and grandmother, Eunice and Lois. He was a companion of Paul for many of the apostle’s travels and spent much of his own pastorate in Ephesus.

Timothy is mentioned in Acts 16-20, and appears in 9 epistles either as joining in Paul’s greetings or as a messenger. Additionally, two of Paul’s three “pastoral epistles” — 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy — were addressed to him and his congregation.

The letters Paul wrote to Timothy and Titus are collectively known as the Pastoral Epistles. Much of Christianity’s understanding and practice of the pastorate comes from these three relatively brief letters.

Lection:

Psalm 71:15-24
Acts 16:1-5
1 Timothy 6:11-16
Matthew 24:42-47

Part III:

 Paul wrote epistles (letters) to Pastor Timothy twice and both epistles are in the Bible.  In those letters there is a lot about the importance and centrality  of the Bible, the written Word of God, in preaching, teaching and liturgy.   When Paul wrote of the “Scripture”, he probably meant the Old Testament, but now the Old Testament is revealed and fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  Here are the passages: 1 Timothy 4:12-141 Timothy 5:17-19,   2 Timothy 1:4-6  and 2 Timothy 3:15-17 read together;   2 Timothy 4:1-3.  The Word of God is the Sword of the Spirit ( Ephesians 6:17) and is the indispensable weapon and tool in the pastors’ arsenal and with him the congregation’s (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:4-6).  The Lord commands us to be fed the Word of the Lord (cf. John 21:16-18).  Timothy was taught out of the Bible from the beginning of his life and to it’s end.  Bible classes are so important for any congregation or mission.  We need every Word from God (see Matthew 4:3-5).  The Word alone is our food, our guide and our companion in this world into the Kingdom come.  A strong witness to the Scripture  was given in  the most recent edition of the secular news magazine,  The Week (The Week) January 28, 2011: 

It Wasn’t All Bad

Sixth-grade teacher Debra Court of the St. Paul Lutheran School in Bonduel, Wis., was searching an old safe for baptism records to show her students when she came across an aged Bible.  No one at the church realized just how old it was until the church pastor sent pictures of it to the Concordia Seminary Library in St. Louis, where a cataloger concluded it had been printed 340 years ago. ‘To hold something that tells us, in 1670, the same message of God’s grace and Christ that we tell each other today, ‘ said Pastor Timothy Shoup, ‘that helps me to be even more thankful.’

Amen!

Let us pray…Lord Jesus Christ, You have always given to Your Church on earth faithful shepherds such as Timothy to guide and feed Your flock. Make all pastors diligent to preach Your holy Word and administer Your means of grace, and grant Your people wisdom to follow in the way that leads to life eternal; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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“Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

 A Lutheran living in Japan blogged about how Christmas is everywhere in non-Christian Japan just like here: in the stores, TV, music, etc.!  So much so that in Japan there is this joke:

Three salarymen (that’s Japanese English for a company employee) were walking home after their drinks at the bar. They passed by some people coming out of a church. One of the men quipped, “Look at that. They even celebrate Christmas at the church!”

In a related vein, when I was in Norfolk one of the Lutheran pastors was   part of a Lutheran World Federation delegation to Europe.  When in London, after the trip,  he told our pastors’ Bible study that  they were in a cab and going by the world renowned St. Paul’s Cathedral.  The hack gladly pointed out the Cathedral and said a few things about it and then concluded, “But you don’t want to stop there now, I think they are having a worship service.”

In some fashion that joke and anecdote underscore the true miracle of those thoroughly pagan Magi:  they actually worshiped the Christ!  Better than a lot of Christians who are worshiping their own religious feelings/spirituality/positive thinking and following their own heart which means finally worshiping themselves.  The magi  knew He is the King of the Jews and Kings are worthy of obeisance, that is worship.  They gave him gifts, not because they were kings but gifts worthy of a king.  In fact, the English word “worship” historically had as its first meaning:  to give honor to someone who “worthy” (that’s what the “wor” means;  so in England, it has been common to say of someone noble, “Your worship” with not a hint of idolatry!)  Since the magi were pagans, this meant they were idolaters;  but when they worshiped the Christ, they were worshiping truly.  So do we.  But it is finally not what we do in worship that matters but the Lord, even as an infant, gives to us freely:  the reign of the Lord in His grace and peace for sinners, Jew and Gentile.

The Magi first went to Jerusalem and did not bother to go to the Temple.  Where Christ is with His gifts, there is the true Temple of the Lord. From Luther’s Epiphany Sermon on this text:

“The wise men’s faith is…exceedingly beautiful in that …they are not offended because the King of the Jews passes by His temple and center of worship, and chooses the town of Bethlehem, where the inhabitants were simple peasants, hardly to be compared with the erudite bourgeoisie of Jerusalem…(the wise men) simply followed the Word and go to Bethlehem.”

Where His Word is preached purely and the Sacraments administered according to the Word, there is Christ with His gifts. “Nothing in my hand I bring, but simply to Thy Cross I cling”.  Amen.

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