Thursday, December 15, 2011

It's All About the "O"



Here comes a place in the Church year where a little piece of the Liturgy of the Hours joins up with popular devotion.

I refer to the famous "O Antiphons" the antiphon for the Magnificat at Evening Prayer  every day from December 17 through the 23rd.  Shorter versions of these, although in a different order, also appear in the mass at the verse before the Gospel during these days. You will also recognize more poetic versions of the O Antiphons as the verses of the hymn, "O Come,O Come Emmanuel."

The O Antiphons give us the names of the Messiah, drawn from the prophecies of the Old Testament. The O Antiphons were part of the liturgy since the early centuries of Christianity.This excellent wikipedia article tells more about them.

Many Catholic families like to integrate the O Antiphons into family prayer time during the countdown to Christmas. They might say them at the beginning or end of whatever is usually done for family prayer (e.g. rosary, bible reading, bedtime prayers with children).  In our home, the appropriate O Antiphon is read just after grace before dinner.  Some years we have also concluded dinner by singing the appropriate verse from O Come O Come Emmanuel, but that has fallen away as our most enthusiastic singers have grown up and left home.

Other families take the O Antiphons to the arts and crafts level, constructing an "O Antiphon house", which is something along the lines of an advent calendar, with doors that open each day on a different antiphon, providing both a focus of prayer and a cute way for little ones to count down the last week beforeChristmas. 
If you don't already have a family custom related to the O Antiphons--that's why I'm posting this two days before they start. You now have time to figure out how to display these jewels of the advent liturgy to your loved ones.

6 comments:

  1. Some people might enjoy this bit of "O Antiphon" trivia. Trivia is not really the right word, more like a word-play or a mnemonic. The first letters of the Latin names for God in each O Antiphon are S (Sapientia), A (Adonai), R (Radix Jesse), C (Clavis David), O (Oriens), R (Rex gentium), and E (Emmanuel). If you arrange these letters in reverse order you get ERO CRAS, which is Latin for "I will be (here) tomorrow." (The reverse order may seem like a bit of a stretch, but left-to-right order is a fairly modern convention. In some old paintings of the Annunciation, the words of the angel and of Mary are shown coming out of their mouths, and if Mary is facing towards the left side of the painting, the "Ecce ancilla" is written what we consider "backwards", as it is emanating from her mouth.)

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  2. I wonder if you might know why "O Radix Jesse" has been translated as "O Flower of Jesse..." in the LOTH. I've been trying to find this to no avail. It is puzzling.

    Jeanne G.

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  3. I'm guessing it's another case of a more modern--and less accurate translation. I just looked in an old prayer book (pre-Vatican II) and it says O Root of Jesse, a standard to the peoples before whom kings are mute, to whom all nations shall appeal, come to deliver us, delay, we beg thee, no longer.
    BTW. is there a way to get your blog on google reader rather than getting it as an email? I couldn't figure out how to do it.

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  4. The only way I can figure out to do that for other Wordpress blogs like mine is to copy the url and enter it in to the "subscribe" area on Google reader. This should give you a feed that has the title and a few lines, then you click over to the blog to read the rest. That's all I've been able to figure out...
    Jeanne G.

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  5. BTW, I asked Fr. Z the same question and he replied "Once reason may be that in the Vulgate the verse from Isaiah whence comes this image reads: “et egredietur virga de radice Iesse et flos de radice eius ascendet …a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower (flos) shall rise up.”" (although he did say that because he doesn't use the LOTH he didn't know that...)
    Jeanne G.

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  6. Thanks! that was easy. I also revised my today's post in light of your flower/radix/root comment.

    Also, I love that falling snow on your blog.

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