"O Sapientia"

The seven days leading up to the vigil of the Nativity are called the "Great Ferias" of Advent. They are likely most well known for the so-called "O Antiphons" used at evening prayer in various liturgical Christian traditions.

Each antiphon is a name of Christ, one of his attributes mentioned in Scripture. They are:
  • December 17: O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
  • December 18: O Adonai (O Adonai)
  • December 19: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
  • December 20: O Clavis David (O Key of David)
  • December 21: O Oriens (O Morning Star)
  • December 22: O Rex Gentium (O King of the nations)
  • December 23: O Emmanuel (O Emmanuel)
The hymn "O come, O come, Emmanuel" (in Latin, Veni Emmanuel) is a lyrical paraphrase of these antiphons.

In his L'Année Liturgique, Dom Prosper Guéranger notes thus:

"The Church enters to-day on the seven days which precede the Vigil of Christmas, and which are known in the liturgy under the name of the Greater Ferias. The ordinary of the Advent Office becomes more solemn; the antiphons of the psalms, both for Lauds and the Hours of the day, are proper, and allude expressly to the great coming. Every day, at Vespers, is sung a solemn antiphon, consisting of a fervent prayer to the Messias, whom it addresses by one of the titles given Him in the sacred Scriptures.

In the Roman Church, there are seven of these antiphons, one for each of the greater ferias. They are commonly called the O's of Advent, because they all begin with that interjection."


Wednesday 17 December 2008

"O Sapentia"

"O Wisdom, which camest out of the mouth of the most High, and reachest from one end to another, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence."

Dom Gueranger concludes his commentary on the first great 'O' antiphon:

"Thou choosest Bethlehem for thy birthplace, because (it) signifies 'the House of Bread'. In this, thou teachest us that thou art our 'Bread'. The nourishment and support of our life. With God as our food, we cannot die. O Wisdom of the Father, Living Bread that hast descended from heaven, come speedily into us, that thus we may approach to thee and be enlightened by thy light, and by that prudence which leads to salvation."

Here is a recording of the Antiphon, courtesy of the Oxford Dominicans:

(image: chantblog)

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