O Antiphons

O Rising Sun – 21st December 2016

O Rising Sun, you are the splendour of Eternal Light and the Sun of Justice.O Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness; those who dwell in the shadow of death, Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus, come.As I read this very beautiful O Antiphon, a memory comes to mind of long summer evenings spent in the high field – the moinin ard as we called it – sitting under a haystack just watching the breathtaking sight of the sun going down beyond the woods and bog lands of our farm in the West.The silence was full, deep and quiet, except for the little birds on their way home to roost and the friendly crickets close by.  But as the last lights faded what a mystery it was to my child’s mind! Where, oh where had the sun gone?!No grown up’s explanations prepared me for what was always a fresh experience of another rising sun as it streamed through the trees – right into my room the next morning.  The chorus of birds as they flew again to the cornfields and the grass glittering with dew drops and diamonds to me.  Even then this scene had power to thrill me with anticipation of something I knew not what! – was it a foretaste of another Rising Sun still unknown to me?What or who is this ‘Splendour of Eternal Light’ coming to enlighten those of us who sit in darkness – lost in our own little worlds?  It is the Lord Himself, majestic and glorious “wrapped in light as in a robe.”Come then my Lord, my God, teach me where and how to find you – you who dwell in light inaccessible and I desire to come […]

O Key of David – 20th December 2016

O Key of David and sceptre of Israel, what you open no one else can close again, what you close no one can open, O come and lead the captive from prison; free those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.This ‘O Antiphon’ that the Church sings this evening at the Magnificat, has its roots like all the other Antiphons in sacred scripture, in this case in Isaiah chapter 22 and in Luke chapter I.Our Lord is addressed as Key of David – Jesus is Son of David through his foster father, St Joseph, who was of the house of David.  David was the most beloved and important King in Israel’s history – “a man after the Lord’s own heart” as it says in the Acts of the Apostles.  So Jesus in his human ancestry is truly one of us as he is truly Son of God in his divine nature “conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the Holy spirit. (Mt Ch 1)A key is an indispensable instrument for opening and closing a door, so it is a very appropriate symbol with which to address our awaited Saviour. The Babe of Bethlehem, whom we await, did not die because he was born but He was born in order to die – the Crib and the Cross are closely associated.  By His obedience in suffering His Passion, death and Resurrection, Jesus opened the gates of heaven for the whole human race which our first parents had closed by their disobedience.  There is a lovely Icon called ‘the harrowing of hell’ where Jesus on Holy Saturday is seen in His descent into hell and taking  both Adam and Eve by […]

The Great ‘O Antiphons – O Wisdom – 17th Dec

O Wisdom, you come forth from the mouth of the Most High.  You fill the universe and hold all things together in a strong yet gentle manner.  O come to teach us the way of truth.We are immediately reminded of the wonderful passages in the Old Testament which speak of Wisdom.  There we read of Wisdom as proceeding from God, as being begotten by Him, as being the beloved who at the beginning stood beside Him, assisting at the creation – ‘ever at play in His presence and delighting to be with the children of men.’These passages concerning Wisdom can be applied to the Word who in the fullness of time took on our human nature and pitched his tent among us.While in the Old Testament God’s Wisdom was manifested by His governance of the created universe in a strong yet gentle manner, being lenient and merciful to all because He loves all that exists – it is in the crucified Christ on the Cross that we experience the full revelation of divine Wisdom, of God’s infinite love and mercy for us human beings.  As St Paul tells us “God’s folly is wiser than human wisdom and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.  In Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge and of his fullness we have all received.  He has become our wisdom and our holiness.” (1 Corinthians)O Eternal wisdom come and teach us the way of truth – He is Truth itself who leads us to all Truth – the truth about ourselves, about our world, about situations in which we find ourselves.In spite of whatever pain and contradictions we experience in our own lives and in our […]

O Rex Gentium – 22nd December 2015

 “O King and treasure of the nations,the cornerstone that makes the two into one;Come and save man whom you fashioned from dust.” We heard this morning from the Prophet Isaiah (during the Office of Readings) the following:Thus says the LORD God:“Behold, I will lift up my hand to the nations, and raise my signal to the peoples; and they shall bring your sons in their bosom, and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.Kings shall be your foster-fathers and their queens your nursing mothers.With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you, and lick the dust of your feet.Then you will know that I am the LORD: those who wait for me shall not be put to shame.”(Is 49:22-23)It is difficult – never having shaken hands with one – to know what qualities one might expect a king to have – so that he might be approachable and command a certain allegiance and loyalty.  Kindness, perhaps? … and Knowledge?  Insight, maybe also Inspiration; Nobility; Graciousness.We all come into the world in the same way, whether we be high or low; kings or paupers – and in only a very short while now, we will celebrate the great day of JESUS’ birth, and it won’t be immediately obvious what He is – a king or a pauper?  Or both?Do we have eyes to see? Our “O” antiphon this evening speaks of JESUS as “the cornerstone that makes the two into one,” and it was these particular words “makes the two into one” which made the more perplexing impression: what two? … and two what?As with many of the “O” antiphons, it is very possible to give free reign […]

“O Rising Sun – 21st December 2015

“O Rising sun, You are the splendor of eternal light, and the sun of justice.O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness, those who dwell in the shadow of death.Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus, come”                What can be a better metaphor or image to depict the reality of salvation given by God to human beings than light and darkness? Even without going deep into the metaphysics of light by Grosseteste, Or the reflections on light by St. Augustine, St. Bonaventure or other theologians and philosophers, or without further specific analysis of light as knowledge, truth, goodness, life, etc., we immediately grasp the meaning of this text. We are very familiar with the word and image of “light” throughout Old Testament and New Testament and numerous sacred religious arts to describe the saving power and act of God from our death, sin, and suffering.  You are probably familiar with the famous painting of Caravaggio “the calling of St Matthew”. The beam of light from Jesus shone towards Matthew who was sitting at the table in the darkness when Jesus called him.  How about “The Light of the World” by William Holman Hunt? In this painting, Jesus is holding a lamp in one of his hands and knocks on the door with the other hand, but interestingly there is no doorknob on the door, which means that the door can be opened only by the person inside the door.  I interpret that the light, grace, and redemption are brought by Jesus Christi in person, but still our cooperation is necessary to receive them.   During fall last year, about 18 secondary-school girls visited the monastery and had a conversation with the novitiate about Catholicism and our contemplative life. […]

O Antiphons – 23rd December 2014

A reflection given by one of our sisters on today’s Magnificat Antiphon, which addresses Christ as Emmanuel – God with us. (To listen, click the ‘play’ button in the box below). For an alternative audio player click here. O Emmanuel  Today we have come to the 7th and final ‘O’ Antiphon – the climax of them all.“O Emmanuel, King and Lawgiver, desire of the nations; Saviour of all peoples: come and set us free, Lord our God.” Or“O Emmanuel, You are our King and Judge; the One whom the peoples await and their Saviour.   O come, save us, Lord, our God,”In it, the Messiah is addressed in person and is asked to remain with us as Emmanuel.This – the last – is appointed for the day before Christmas Eve, when we are about to celebrate the coming of God to earth in human flesh.Since this is the last and climax of the antiphons, “O Emmanuel” repeats phrases and ideas which have occurred previously, in particular ‘King’ and ‘Lawgiver’.  These two words are significant as they indicate the great difference between us and God; the vast gap between Creator and creature; Ruler and ruled.  ‘Lawgiver’ occurs in the other antiphon with a Hebrew title, “O Adonai”, which means Lord and is also a reverent way of indicating, without uttering, the Divine Name.The word ‘Emmanuel’ occurs only three times in the Bible: in Is 7:14; 8:8; and Mt 1:23, but the idea it expresses is found in practically every book.  “The Lord is with you” … “The Lord will be with you” … The basic meaning of ‘God with us’ is that God acts on our behalf.  In Jdg, “The Lord is with you, mighty man […]

O Antiphons – 22nd December 2014

 A reflection given by one of our sisters on today’s Magnificat Antiphon, which addresses Christ as King. (If you prefer to listen, click the ‘play’ button in the box below). For an alternative audio player click here. “O King whom all the peoples desire, you are the cornerstone which makes all one. O come and save us whom you madefrom clay.”  In this sixth ‘O’ Antiphon the Incarnate Word is given the title of ‘King’, a title which appears very much in the psalms – for example psalm five: ‘To my words give ear O Lord, give heed to my groaning.Attend to the sound of my cries,my King and my God.”And our entrance Antiphon at Mass this morning from psalm 23 read:“O gates lift high your heads; grow higher, ancient doors.Let him enter, the King of glory.” Although he was the King desired by all the people of the Old Testament, and  those of the New Testament, we too have within us this same desire, this need, this longing to meet  God, to see Him face to face: “ It is your face O Lord that I seek, hide not your face” ( Psalm 26)St. Irenaeus’ famous saying :“ The glory of God is man fully alive and the glory of man is the vision of God “ – the second part of this sentence – the glory of man is the vision of God – is usually neglected and certainly has not been given worthy attention for we long and thirst for the vision of God. Perhaps it is only poetry, the poetry of the psalms that can express this desire adequately:“ O God you are my God, for you I long.For you my soul […]

O Antiphon – 21st December

A reflection given by one of our sisters on today’s Magnificat Antiphon, which addresses Christ as the Rising Sun. (If you prefer to listen, click the ‘play’ button in the box below).

For an alternative audio player click here.

“O Rising Sun,
you are the splendour of eternal light
and the sun of justice.
O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death.”

In today’s antiphon we contemplate Jesus as the Rising Sun, the eternal light that enlightens us. This is something of a preview; an expression of the divine glory and beauty of the one who is to come, a glimpse of truths that are expanded upon and expressed more deeply and richly in the Mass readings for Christmas Day, particularly in the powerful imagery of the Prologue to John’s Gospel .
Is 52:7 “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of one who brings good news.”
Jn 1 “the light of men, a light that shines in the dark … the true light that enlightens all men … we saw his glory”
This light, beauty and glory is not that of a impersonal, distant, ‘divine absolute’ but of a loving and caring Lord who comes to help and enlighten us, to bring us to share in his life “God is light” (1Jn 1:5).

Christ comes to enlighten us. This is why prayer and contemplation are so important for study and preaching, hence a motto of our Order is: “to contemplate and give others the fruits of our contemplation.” Christ, who is our light, enlightens our minds and guides us to a correct understanding of the truths of the faith; as he said to Peter “flesh and blood has not revealed this to […]

O Antiphon – 20th December 2014

A reflection given by one of our sisters on today’s Magnificat Antiphon, which invokes Christ as Key of David. (If you prefer to listen, click the ‘play’ button in the box below). For an alternative audio player click here. O Key of David.O come now key of David, come, and open wide our heavenly home, make safe the way that leads on high and close the path to misery. Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel, shall come to you O Israel.                                                                                                                Translation from the Breviary.Reflecting on this fourth ‘O Antiphon’ in the light of the Gospel of today from St. Luke, Chapter one, our hearts  are drawn to concentrate on the Presence of God in our lives, Emmanuel – God is with us.  Earlier on in this first chapter, we are told –the angel Gabriel appeared to Zachary in the Temple and introduced himself in these words:   ‘my name is Gabriel and I stand in the presence of God’ – no wonder the angel Gabriel needed to re-assure Zachary‘do not be afraid’!  When Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, appeared to Mary six months later, St. Luke emphasises into her presence the angel came. Bending low in reverence before her, the angel announced the news of the Incarnation  – Jesus our Saviour, the Key of David, was to be born of her. This most precious scene which St. Luke writes of has been exquisitely portrayed by our well loved brother, Blessed Fra Angelico, O.P. and is worthy of a life-long depth of prayerful contemplation – the angel Gabriel who stands in the presence of God, now bending low in the presence of Mary, as he brings her the news of the Incarnation.As we pray […]

O Antiphons – 19th December 2014

O Root of Jesse A reflection given by one of our sisters on today’s Magnificat Antiphon, which invokes Christ as Root of Jesse. (If you prefer to listen, click the ‘play’ button in the box below). The shrub that was damaged“O Root of Jesse, who stands as a sign among the peoples, before whom kings shall shut their mouths, to whom the nations shall make supplication, come to deliver us and delay not”When reflecting on this evening’s ‘O Antiphon’ the image which came to mind was a shrub in our garden which was completely burned up in the severe frost and snow four years ago – nothing was left but dry wood. However, Jos, our wise gardener decided not to dig it up – he just cut it back to ground level, leaving the root intact. Ever since, it has fascinated me to watch it grow and come back to life again. Several months passed before tiny shoots began to sprout – for over a year I wondered if it would just remain a stump with a few twigs on it – but NO! now four years later it is a large healthy shrub adorning the garden and gaining height and width with each passing year. Our antiphon addresses the ‘Root of Jesse’ which stands as a sign for the nations. Jesse, as we know, was the father of King David from whose line the Messiah, Jesus our Saviour, sprang. David desired to build a house for his Lord but he was reminded that it was God who would build him a house – the True Temple, the Body of Christ and by extension the Church – where God dwells with us and […]