Sunday, December 17, 2006

Advent: The Next Level (O Sapientia)

Beginning this day in the Roman Calendar, the Church counts the final days before the Lord's coming with the "O Antiphons." This seven days of observance is known collectively as the "Greater Ferias" (feria in the ancient tradition, referring to a regular weekday). They are the short hymns sung before and after the Magnificat during Vespers. Many of us have sung their paraphrases in the verses of the great Advent hymn "O Come O Come Emmanuel."

Father Zuhlsdorf has prepared a series of commentaries on each of the antiphons upon which each of the verses of this hymn are based:

"There is a little-known fact about the order of these ancient O Antiphons. This is not apparent in English, but it can be seen clearly in the official language of the Roman Catholic Church: Latin. The Latin versions of each of the titles of the Messiah: Sapientia (Wisdom), Adonai (Lord), Radix (Root), Clavis (Key), Oriens (Dawn), Rex (King), and Emmanuel (Emmanuel). Take the first letters of each of the titles and write them backwards, thus counting down the days of the feast: EROCRAS or 'ero cras.' This means in Latin 'I will be (here) tomorrow'."

For this year, today's commemoration is replaced by the Sunday observance, in this case of "Gaudete Sunday," where the Introit intones "Rejoice in the Lord always..." But here is a video clip of the antiphon anyway, brought by way of Shawn Tribe. It is the first in a series of seven:

O Wisdom, who came from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: come, and teach us the way of prudence.

Like they used to say, follow the bouncing ball.

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