Friday, 17 December 2010

O Sapientia

My Advent liturgical education continues. Apparently, today is the first of the ‘O Antiphons’. I’m grateful to Fr William Saunders for bringing me up to speed on what they are all about. He writes:
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.
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), and O Emmanuel. Also, each one refers to the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah.
Today is O Sapientia and here’s a setting with relevant passages of scripture beneath.

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

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).

h/t Maggi Dawn for the translation and further commentary.

h/t Steven Maxon for the video clip.


Sue D said...

Useful stuff - I have just noticed these and wondered what they were about!

Revsimmy said...

Nice to have the plainsong notation to follow on the audio clip.

Maggi Dawn also has a reflection on this antiphon here.