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O Come, Emmanuel!

I love the last little bit of Advent, as our waiting stretches out and our yearning seems yet deeper still after living in it these past short weeks. One of the ways that the Church has helped us into that feeling is with a tradition called the “O Antiphons.” Whether you know them by that name or not, you know them—they’ve been rewoven into the hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” And they’re sung or said each night before the Magnificat at Evening Prayer in the last week of Advent, from December 17th on.

They’re called the “O Antiphons” because they speak to Jesus and ask him to come—and that, quickly!—in a variety of the different ways we’ve experienced him: as Wisdom, as Lord, as the Root of Jesse.  They’re short and gorgeous pieces of poetry and have beautiful chant settings. To complement LauraMarie’s ACC Advent Calendar (week 1; week 2; week 3; week 4), I’m going to post one of them as a response in the forum for this post on the 17th through the 23rd—I hope you enjoy them.  (You can find all of them , lightly adapted, on pages 119-120 of the Book of Alternative Services.)

And because I can’t resist one of the details about them: if you take the first letter of each of the Latin titles in reverse order, it spells out “Ero Cras”: “Tomorrow, I will be there.”

The first one for today, 17 December, is O Sapientia:

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
and reaching mightily from one end of the earth to the other, ordering all things well:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae

You can hear it sung, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6zaiZxJIpU
and find the music here (in neumes) : http://wdtprs.com/JTZ/o_antiphons/o_ant_17_dec.htm

Matthew Griffin

About Matthew Griffin

I'm a priest serving in the Diocese of Niagara, with both a pastoral and an academic interest in the relationship between liturgy and theology. I enjoy reading, cooking, and spending time with my beloved and our young son.
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