17th December - O Wisdom

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17th December - O Wisdom

Dominican Nuns Ireland
Published by Dominican Nuns Ireland in Reflections (Other) · 17 December 2023
Tags: Advent
This evening we begin the first of the ‘O’ Antiphons. These antiphons are a set of seven Magnificat antiphons used at Vespers during the last seven days of Advent in Western Christian traditions. They are also known as the Great Advent Antiphons or the Great ‘O’ Antiphons. The texts of these antiphons are believed to have originated in Italy in or before the sixth century.

Each antiphon is a title of Christ, one of his attributes mentioned in Isaiah 11:1-2. We sing these antiphons from December 17th to December 23rd. The first letter of the titles, from last to first, appear to form a Latin acrostic. “Ero cras,” meaning “Tomorrow I will be (there)”. This is formed from the first letter of each title: Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia. Such acrostics were popular among early medieval writers, and some scholars have taken this as further evidence for their antiquity.

Each title used is an image from the Old Testament that foreshadows and prophesies about the coming of the Messiah, Jesus the Christ. As we look forward to Christmas, these antiphons remind us that we dwell in the fullness of time, the already here, and not yet here, time of the Kingdom of God.

While none of these titles fully describe God, they remind us of important attributes of the divine that we can never completely grasp.

It is to Christ as Wisdom, that we want to turn our attention today. The Antiphon reads in English:

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.

St. Paul says: Christ himself has become our Wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30), and the chief way he shows God’s wisdom is from the Cross, in Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:18-30).

We may ask: what does this have to do with the Nativity? In fact, the Crib and the Cross are inseparable and often shown together in art. This is no accident as they both point to a divine wisdom that appears to be nothing but foolishness to the world. God comes both to the Crib and Cross as a perfect gift of self: a full, free, fruitful, and faithful offering. In Bethlehem, Divinity is revealed in humility; on Calvary, Life is found in death. Consider how Mary was witness to this great wisdom in both places, and how it shaped her own continual “yes” to our Father in heaven.

And so we pray:

Lord, in this Antiphon we ask you to teach us the way of truth as you invite us to enter more fully into a deeper relationship with Jesus, and to live in a way that embraces the gift and demands of wisdom in our own lives. Give us the courage, to model the wisdom, humility and love revealed in both Crib and Cross. Help us daily to make of ourselves, like Jesus, a full, free, fruitful, and faithful offering to you, and to give ourselves away in love to others. Amen.

Photo by Alex Shute on Unsplash.   


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