The O Antiphons

December 17th, 2019 | Posted by Sr. Mary Valerie Schneider in Uncategorized - (0 Comments)

We hear the O Antiphons on the remaining days of Advent. Each day the Gospel Acclamation at Mass and the Evening Prayer antiphon before the Magnificat begin with O and include a Messianic title, such as O Wisdom or O King of All the Nations. These O antiphons probably began with monks in centuries past. The monks did something special on the days of December 17 through December 24. Maybe Advent had been a little too penitential, and they had to lighten up before the Christmas feast. Anyway, it’s said that they had treats made from peanuts on the day when the Messiah was addressed as Root of Jesse. They ate an orange on the day when the Messiah was named “O Dawn.” My favorite is the day of “O Key of David” when the monk in charge of the wine cellar used his key to bring out a fine wine for the monks’ dinner. 

One time the superior in the convent in which I was living did the same thing; that is, she provided some little treat every day during the O Antiphons. Just something to look forward to during the last days of teaching before Christmas vacation. Try it!  It’s sort of fun!  

Did you ever look in a puddle and see treetops and clouds? Looking down you see the heavens. Looking down you see what is above. When Mary and Joseph looked down into the face of Baby Jesus, did they see God in his heaven?

There’s movement in Advent. We seem to be on a journey. Forward and deeper. Forward in crossing off the days until Christmas. Forward in opening windows of Advent calendars. Deeper into the mystery. Come, all ye! Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord! Let Advent be a pilgrimage. “Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain” (Is. 2). Join the parade with Jesus of Nazareth. See him with the centurion entreating Jesus’ cure for his paralyzed servant. Walk by the Sea of Galilee and experience Jesus’ compassion for the sick and hungry. Pass by the two blind men. (Was Jesus playing a game of faith with them?) Go around to all the towns and villages, proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom. Stand upon the heights. Wherever you are catch the joy, for God is coming to dwell among you.

Frederick Buechner writes in The Alphabet of Grace: “Religions start, as Frost said poems do, with a lump in the throat, to put it mildly, or with the bush going up in flames, the rain of flowers, the dove coming down out of the sky.” Does Advent similarly start with “a lump in the throat”? On the very first day of Advent we pray in the Collect for “the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ.” There it is again—another liturgical year, another chance to meet Christ anew, another lump in the throat stuck there by humble awe, blessed anticipation, and awareness that we still haven’t awakened to all that we are meant to be. So let’s heed St. Paul’s admonition to the Romans (13:11f) to “throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Stay awake! Be alert! The bush may go up in flames, clouds may rain flowers, and God himself may drop “dovingly” upon the earth.