For anyone, accustomed to attend church services during the weeks that amount to Christmas, they may be familiar with the concept of the Great O antiphons. Some churches would even have a service of the Word where these antiphons are the protagonists.Generally speaking, an antiphon is a variable text (also known as Proper in liturgical jargon) often sung before and, though not always, after a psalm or a canticle. Some of these antiphons (such as the famous Minor Proper at the offertory and Communion at Mass, the ones during processions and those in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary after an office) are recited or sung with a psalm or canticle along with a versicle, a response and a collect as a way to commemorate a feast or any particular reason.The word antiphon comes from Greek (αντιφονος) which means responsive or to reply in a raised voice from where the Latin Church took it literally and without translation.1 From this word, the Church in the West also had the word antiphony, which was a type of psalmody recited or sung in alternation.2Some antiphons derive from Scriptural texts. Others do not take their source from Scripture, but they equally influence the mode of the service. A good example of these are the Marian antiphons such as Salve Regina,Alma Rendemptoris, Ave Regina Caelorum and Regina Caeli as well as the Greek Sub tuum praesitium.3Another group of antiphons include the ones sung for Palm Sunday and Major Litanies (Litaniae maiores) connected to Rogation Day on 25th April.4 When Scriptural antiphons are sung, however, these exercise two functionalities, namely, to denote a mood or a tone, with Nations. Finally, as Christmas approaches everupon the calendar, the antiphons resound what these compositions are all about; the doctrine of the Incarnation and the nativity of God on earth with us (Emmanuel).The O Antiphons point us to deep meaningful realities of the Christian faith and they join us to the same hope found in Scripture. First, the antiphons point us to Christological truths for the season of waiting; not just duringAdvent but beyond. Using a great deal of the inspiration from the book of Isaiah they announce the coming of Messiah as it happened two millennia ago. However, the references to apocalyptic scripture -as from the book ofthe Revelation of St John – point us to the Second coming. Advent is just a shorthand for the hopeful expectancy of the Christian life. As postresurrection Christians we are called to live in a hopeful state of joyful suspense in which we do not know when the Lord will come, while we celebrate the fact that he has come through a virgin’s womb. Such blissful and expectant state is what some theologians refer to the already-not-yet.The antiphons, along with the Magnificat (Lk 1:46-55), become thus signposts of God’s faithfulness. Catholic priest Oliver Treanor said: Even as we celebrate the triumph of Christ’s first coming at Bethlehem we are preparing [ourselves] for his ultimate victory at the eschaton. The Advent antiphons express this tension in the way they are [constructed]. Each consists of an invocation followed by an acclamation and then a supplication…This is why the ‘O’ is repeated at the end of the antiphon -this time as an urgent supplication. ‘O come to teach us’, ‘O come and save’, ‘O come to deliver us’, ‘O come to free the captive’. ‘O come and enlighten us’, ‘O come and save man’. ‘O come and save us’. We who make these appeals may well be redeemed, but we labour under the shadow of original sin. Until he comes to be fully formed in us, as once he was in Mary, we cannot grow ‘to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ’ (Eph. 4: 13). Each exclamation consequently signifies desperate need and desperate hope. Upon his save delivery depends our safe deliverance.7This small work will navigate along the Great ‘O’s to concentrate on their biblical references. Through the lenses of the ‘O’ Antiphons those pieces of Scripture would elucidate how the tradition of the Church has seen these texts from the Middle Ages - and even earlier – as well as onwards. This tradition found inspiration in ‘Holy Writ’, and the result was these beautiful Antiphons which, unlike other antiphons, suffered no alteration due to their beautiful and creative nature. They highlight strong senses of hope and anguish, excitement and expectancy, hope and resignation of a time not arrived. These are also strong emotions present in the Bible, which is why this book aspired to combine Scripture in the Antiphons, as a source of investigation. Together, the reader can achieve a greater understanding of both the Bible and of the tradition of the Church. These O Antiphons help the Church to sing to the Lord with shouts of joy (Psalm 95); to sing the God revealed in the Bible and inspired by his Holy Spirit (Tim. 3:16-17); and to worship God in his Church in a fitting way (Eph. 5:19). The content of this book is not exhaustive by any means. It is recommended to be read with a Bible along the way. Ideally, the Bible references in each section will prompt the reader to investigate deeper in Scriptures where the passage come from, its contextual relevance and its extrapolation to our Christian reality in the twenty-first century. There will be further consideration for reflection both in each antiphon theme as well as in the appendix at the end. The questions are generally designed for introspection, but they can be very suitable for group discussions; in which case, an atmosphere of honest intimacy and vulnerability might be required. It therefore becomes a suitable resource of any church community to go deeper in the faith and deeper in their Anglican tradition during a special time of the year such as Advent.
While there is a book in the Anglican Bible called Wisdom8 , there are many other references to wisdom elsewhere. For example wisdom is personified in the book of Proverbs. In Proverbs 8:12, wisdom says:I, wisdom, live with prudence,and I attain knowledge and discretion.ItisinthisspiritofpersonificationofwisdomasanattributeofGodthattheantiphonmakesitsplea.Jesusisthiswisdom.Godistheultimatesourceofwisdomandonlyhimcangrantthegrace of prudence.In Isaiah 11:2 we can read :The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,the spirit of wisdom and understanding,the spirit of counsel and might,the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.TheMostHighspoke,theantiphongoes,andwisdomcameforth.TheconnectionstoJohn1are remarkable,butalsoinIsaiahwecanseehowthisdescriptioncanbeappliedtoourLordJesusas well.Infact,duringthisseasonofadvent,weremembernumeroustimesandinnumerousforms howthefruitoftheSpirit,asIsaiahdescribesit,restontheMessiah.John1:14saysthattheWord ofGodcamefullofgraceandtruth.Onewayofidentifyingwisdomiscontemplatingthetruththat carrieswithit,andwhenoneseestruthinwisdom,itbecomesveryeasytoidentifythegracethat hasbeengiventofindit.TheWordofGodisJesus.OurCreedarticulatesveryclearlythatitis throughtheFatherthattheSonisbegotten.Itisthetrinitarianunityofmutualunionor interpenetration.JesusisthiswisdomthattheFatherhasgivenus.InJesuswefindaperfectuseof prudence;thatis,practicalwisdomthatempowersonetobegoodandtoactwellinordinaryand extraordinary affairs.
Pray with the antiphonOWisdom,youcameforthfromthemouthoftheMostHigh,andreachingfrom beginningtoend,youorderedallthingsmightilyandsweetly.Comeandteachus the way of prudence.For ReflectionWhat is the difference between wisdom and knowledge?How do you feel about seeing Jesus Christ as wisdom?In what ways to you seek wisdom?How regular do you ask God for the spirit of wisdom in your life?What is one thing you did not get from this antiphon?
AntiphonOAdonaiandRulerofthehouseofIsrael,youappearedtoMosesinthefireoftheburning bush,andonMountSinaigavehimyourLaw:Come,andwithanoutstretchedarmredeemus! TheattentiveheartcanfindintheGospels(Matthew,Mark,LukeandJohn)oftheNew TestamentsomeparallelismbetweentheExodusnarrativeintheOld Testamentandtheministry of Jesus in the New.Two key events in the life of Moses are present in this antiphon; the first is his calling from the position of comfort to a position of self-sacrifice in order that God may save his people (cf. Exodus 3). The second event takes place after God has save the people from the political – and spiritual – power of Egypt. God then gives Moses the Decalogue9 and with it, he establishes a covenant with his people (cf. Exodus 20).MoseswaspresentedwithGod’splansforfreedomandwasbaffledbyit:IfIcometothe Israelitesandsaytothem,“TheGodofyourancestorshassentmetoyou”,andtheyaskme, “Whatishisname?”whatshallIsaytothem?’GodsaidtoMoses,‘IamwhoIam.’Hesaid further, ‘Thus you shall say to the Israelites, “I am has sent me to you. (Ex. 3:14b)ThepropernameforGodisIam.SuchuniquenamebelongstonootherandtheJewishfaith considerthisnamesofullofmeaning,reverenceandholiness.Itisethicallyinappropriateto evenutterit.So,insteadofusingtheHolyName,theychoosetoaddressGodwithhisstatusof Lord (Adonai).EverytimetheHolyNameofGodispresentinScripture,theJewishpeoplewouldsubstituteit forAdonai.Semanticallyspeaking,thisAdonaifunctionsverymuchasapropername;an intimate name to talk to God.Jesus, as Lord (Adonai) and as the new Moses, he creates and gives us a new commandment in John 13:34: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.Like Moses, he delivers us from the slavery state of any chains that keep us from being free to love God. Like Moses he intercedes for us to God (cf. Rom. 8:34). Moses casts Nehushtan10 on a pole so that the people of Israel may look at it and be saved (cf. Num. 21.4-9). Jesus is stuck on a cross with outstretched arms, as the antiphon prays, and through him, we are saved.
Pray with the antiphonO Adonai and Ruler of the house of Israel, you appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush, and on Mount Sinai gave him your Law: Come, and with an outstretched arm redeem us!For ReflectionTheliberationofthepeopleofIsraelfromEgyptbythehandofMoseswassuchacrucial eventinthehistoryofGod’speoplethatJudaismbasesagreatdealofitsidentityonthis historicalevent.AsChristians,howhasthe‘newExodus’byJesusaffectedouridentity? HowdoyouaddressGodinyourlife?Whatsentimentdoesitconvey?Canyouthinkof any art where God’s arm is outstretched significant to you?
19th DecemberAntiphonORootofJesse,Youstandforanensignofmankind;beforeYoukingsshallkeep silence,andtoYouallnationsshallhaverecourse.Comeandsaveusanddonot delay.Poet Malcolm Guite shares the following about this antiphon: Thethird Antiphon,‘ORadix’,isaprayerthatcallsonChristastheRoot,animageIfind particularlycompellingandhelpful.Theantiphonreferstotheimageofthe‘treeof Jesse’,thefamilytreethatleadstoDavidandultimatelytoChristasthe‘SonofDavid’… formethetitle‘Radix’goesdeeper,asagoodrootshould,deepdownintothegroundof ourbeing,thegoodsoilofcreation.GodinChristis,Ibelieve,therootofallgoodness, whereveritisfoundandinwhatsoeverculture,orwithwhatevernamesitfruitsand flowers.Asoundtreecannotbearbadfruit,saidChrist,whoalsosaid,‘Oamthevine, you are the branches’ (John 15.5).11Weallcomefromafamilytree.Somewishestheydidnotcomefromthatparticulartree. Otherswishedtheirbrancheshadnotbecomerotten.TheBibleisfulloflineage connections.Infact,thewholeoftheOTisanarrativebasedonthelineageofGod’s people,whomadeitoutofEgypt,thenwhomadeitintoExile,whocamefrom Babylonia,whoqualifiedforworshippingattheTemple,etc.Tribes,familynames, descendanceandgenepolescarriesaveryheavyloadonScriptures.TheGospel according to St. Matthew commences its narratives with Jesus’ genealogy, which traces it
from Abraham to Josef, the son of Jacob, the son of Matthan (cf. Matt. 1: 1-17).This antiphon refers particularly to the passage in Isaiah 11:1:A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.TheprophetMicahalsoannouncesthattheChristwillcomeasJesse’sdescendanceasJesse was from the tribe of Judah in Micah 5:2:But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah,who are one of the little clans of Judah,from you shall come forth for meone who is to rule in Israel,whose origin is from of old,from ancient days.InJesusallthepromisesofthepatriarchs,StPaulsays,areconfirmedinRomans15and quotingIsaiah,hereferstothetreeofJesseasevidenceforit(cf.Rom.15:12).Jesuscame andsavedus,andhewillcomeagain.Henceoursupplicationattheendoftheantiphon: come and do not delay. Pray with the antiphonORootofJesse,Youstandforanensignofmankind;beforeYoukingsshallkeepsilence,andtoYouall nations shall have recourse. Come and save us and do not delay.For ReflectionThebestsellingbookTheHiddenlifeofTreessuggeststhattherootofatreeshould technicallybeconsidereditsbrain.Themanydutiesthattherootsexercisehelpthetreeto defenditselffromexteriorthreats.Rootsallowatreetotransfernutrients,notjusttoother partsofthetreebuttoothertreestoo.Thedifferentrootsofthetreesareinterconnectedina webofcommunicationandrelationwhichensurethesurvivalofthewholeecosystemfrom allkindsofdangers.Wecouldstronglyarguethatwithouttheroots,treeswouldnotsurvive. What are your roots? Is the Radix of Jesse your personal root? How does Jesus maintain yourlivelihood both spiritually and physically?
20th DecemberAntiphonO Key of David and Sceptre of the house of Israel: Youopen and none may close, You close and none may open.Come and deliver from the chains of prison those who sitin darkness and in the shadow of death.TheoverarchingstoryoftheBiblecanbeseenthroughalock.InGenesis3andonwards, paradiseislockedoutforhumansduetotheirtransgressionsinit.Ourhumansinful freedomcausedourheartstothinkofourselvesmorethanGod.Inthatmanner,wecould notbecitizenofthekingdomofGod.Wewereusurpinghisthroneandwehadtolocked outofit.Isaiah22:22remindsusthatnotallislost.Therewillbeatimewhenthis paradise,thiskingdomwillbeopenforusagain.Godwillmakethishappenthroughthe key:I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, andno one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open.Such authority will be given to this member of the house of David, this key.Fast forwarding to Revelation, we can find the end-result: After this I looked, and there in heaven a door stood open! Revelation 4:1ThisdoorwouldtakeStJohntoheavenandthistimehewouldseethatparadiseisnowa citywithtwelvedoorsorgatesopenedforustocomein.ThekeyofDavidhasopenedit forallwhobelieve(cf.Rev.21:21).Thiskeynthathasopenedthegatesofheavenforusis JesusChristthroughwhom,Ephesians2:18tellsus,‘wehavenowaccessinoneSpiritto the Father.’St Paul also says:God,whoreconciledustohimselfthroughChrist,andhasgivenustheministryof reconciliation;thatis,inChristGodwasreconcilingtheworldtohimself,notcounting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. 2 Cor. 5:18-19JesushasliterallybecomeforustheaccesstoanintimaterelationshipwithGod.Wewere in the prison of Adam’s illusion12 until God pitch his tent among us and became one of us.This Key of David, however, also says in Revelation the following: Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and openthe door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.Revelation 3:20RememberourhumansinfulfreedomfromGenesis3?Jesusbringsusanopportunityto cometotermswiththis. Whilehehasgainedforuswhatwecouldnotattainforourselves, wecanclingtohimandchoose(will)toreceivewhathehasobtainedforus. Atthistime, theHolySpiritwillenableustochooseandtoseewhatgreatgiftthisisforourlives. And thatiswhytheantiphoncontinueswiththesupplicationakintothesongofZechariahin Luke 1:By the tender mercy of our God,to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,to guide our feet into the way of peace. Lk. 1. 78a, 79Thisevangelisticprayeristhedesireofallthosewhohavefoundthisjoyandwantsthe wholeworldtoparticipateinit.ThekeyofDavidgivesusaccessthatwebecome ourselves helpers for others to find that key.Pray with the antiphonO Key of David and Sceptre of the house of Israel: You openand none may close, You close and none may open. Comeand deliver from the chains of prison those who sit indarkness and in the shadow of death.For ReflectionIn what ways can the concept of key be seen more than figuratively?
21st DecemberAntiphonO Dayspring, Radiance of the Light eternal and Sun of Justice;come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and the shadow ofdeath.Dayspringisthesameassayingdawn.Itisaphenomenonrelatedtolight.TheSuniswhatcausedthis dawnordayspringtospringupfromthehorizonontheeast(orient)andtobringlighttonight.Inbiology aswellasduringbiblicaltimes,lightcanbeassociatedwithrestoration,andwithlife.IntheBible, particularly,whatisinthelightissomethingvisible,andclear.Thus,Jesusisidentifiedinliturgieswith theSunofRighteousness(lightandgoodmorality,cf.Malachi4:2)whowouldradiatehisrighteouslight uponusall.TheconceptoflightasagoodthingisparticularlyclearinJob38.12,orintheBenedictus, the song of Zechariah, in the gospel of St Luke:By the tender mercy of our God,the dawn from on high will break upon us,Lk 1:78Psalm 23 also suggests darkness as a negative place:Even though I walk through the darkest valleyI fear no evil;for you are with me;your rod and your staff—they comfort me. Ps. 23:4Evenwhenthepsalmistfindsasituationofchaos,horrorandobscurity,theprotectionofGodwillbe alwaysavailable.Moreover,pickingupthisluminousreference,theprophetIsaiahsuggeststhat something has been brightened up in his time:
The people who walked in darknesshave seen a great light;those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined.Isaiah 9:2TheChristianfaithpicksupthisMessianicovertoneandlocatessuchnewsinthepersonofJesusChrist. JesusistheSunofJusticethatputseverythingtoright.Hisrestorativepowerbringspeoplefromdarkness intotheradiantlightofwhich,truth,goodness,beautyandwisdom,emanate.Bycontrast,thosewhodo not find life in the light, live in a shadow of death. Pray with the antiphonO Dayspring, Radiance of the Light eternal and Sun of Justice;come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and the shadow ofdeath.For ReflectionThisantiphonhasallusionstonumerousbiblicalreferences.Perhapsyouwouldliketoconsidergoing deeper into those passages and how they would relate in their context as well as to each other.Howdoeslightaffectyouinyourdailylife?Somecountrieshaveproblemswith VitaminDdeficiency.In theUK8.4%ofUKwhite19–64yearsoldpeoplehavevitaminDdeficiency…inthesummertime, whichrisesto39.3%inthewinter.14Insomecases,populationssufferfromsevereSeasonalAdditive Disorder(SAD).IfweconsidertheeffectsoftheSuninourbodies,inwhatwayscanJesusbethe spiritual sun of our souls? Thethreemajormonotheisticreligions(Judaism,ChristianityandIslam)usetheEast(Oriens)asacentral focusinthestructureoftheirtemples.TowhatdegreedoesthesignificanceoftherisingoftheSunaffect our Christian understanding of eschatology?