December 17, 2019
As we count down the days till Christmas, the Church presents several beautiful liturgical items for our contemplation as we prepare ourselves interiorly for the coming of the Savior. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed right about now by the tasks on your holiday to-do list, perhaps take a moment to recall the things that the Church places before our minds at this time in Advent.
On Saturday the 14th, many parishes celebrated the traditional Rorate Mass, the early-morning votive Mass in honor of Our Lady that is celebrated in the hour before dawn. With a plethora of candles providing the only light for the Mass, it is an image of the Light Who is soon to dispel the darkness of the world. The next day was Gaudete Sunday, when, amidst the waiting and penances of Advent, we expressed liturgically the joy and excitement that is building in our hearts: Gaudéte in Dómino semper: íterum dico, gaudéte (“Rejoice in the Lord always: again I say, rejoice.” – from the Introit for Gaudete Sunday).
This week brings us the Advent Ember Days on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, as well as the first of the Greater Advent Antiphons, commonly called the “O Antiphons.” These occur on the 7 days leading up to Christmas Eve, today through the 23rd, and are a part of the office of Vespers on those days. While not all of us say the Divine Office regularly, these Antiphons probably sound familiar to us nonetheless, because one of the best-known Advent hymns, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” is based on them. They are a beautiful reflection on the role of the Savior, the long expectation of His coming among the people of Israel, and the convergence of the events of the Old Testament into the point in history, the fullness of time, when the Savior was to appear.
So we encourage you to reflect on the O Antiphons as we draw near to the time of Our Lord’s Nativity, and may these final days of Advent be free from worldly worries and filled instead with the peace of the coming Savior. +
Cover photo by Allison Girone shows the Rorate-style Mass of the Immaculate Conception at FSSP Philadelphia in 2018.
The O Antiphons
O Wisdom, Which camest out of 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.
O Adonai, and Leader of the house of Israel, Who didst appear to Moses in the flame of the burning bush, and didst give unto him the law on Sinai: come and with an outstretched arm redeem us.
O Root of Jesse, Which standest for an ensign of the people, before Whom kings shall keep silence, Whom the Gentiles shall beseech: come and deliver us, and tarry not.
O Key of David, and Scepter of the house of Israel, that openest and no man shutteth, and shuttest and no man openeth: come and bring the prisoner forth from the prison-house, and him that sitteth in darkness and in the shadow death.
O Day-Spring, Brightness of light eternal, and Sun of Justice, come and enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
O King of the Gentiles and the desire thereof, Thou cornerstone that makest both one, come and deliver mankind, whom Thou didst form out of clay.
O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the desire of the nations and the Savior thereof, come to save us, O Lord our God.