December 19 O’Antiphon

Dec. 19
Prayer – more than just a personal matter
“O Root of Jesse, you stand for the ensign of mankind; before you kings shall keep silence and to you all nations shall have recourse. Come, save us, and do not delay.”
The incarnation is a historical event: God was born into a specific family and land. He is fully human and one of us, and yet he is still God. He comes to save us from within. All nations and people have recourse to him because he understands our brokenness and has the power to restore us. Only he can give us the true freedom of the children of God, something no king, president or governor could ever do.
How important is prayer to me? When spouses don’t make time for each other, their marriage fails. This obviously affects their children deeply. Likewise, when our relationship with God in prayer is non-existent, we are doomed to fail — we cannot be more than a shadow of the person God called us to be. This not only affects us, but also those around us. All we can offer is a spiritually impoverished father, mother, coworker…This is why prayer is not merely a personal matter. If prayer is not part of your daily life, commit to a few minutes a day. It is the way in which we allow God to work to transform us. If you already pray daily, what can you do to make it deeper?
O Jesus, you became man in all things except for sin. I ask you to help me be faithful to prayer, to transform me into the person you created me to be. I trust that you will work out your salvation in me and lead me to true freedom.
What are the “O Antiphons”?

The O Antiphons refer to the seven antiphons that are recited (or chanted) preceding the Magnificat during Vespers of the Liturgy of the Hours. They cover the special period of Advent preparation known as the Octave before Christmas, Dec. 17-23, with Dec. 24 being Christmas Eve and Vespers for that evening being for the Christmas Vigil.

The exact origin of the O Antiphons is not known. Boethius (c. 480-524) made a slight reference to them, thereby suggesting their presence at that time. At the Benedictine abbey of Fleury (now Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire), these antiphons were recited by the abbot and other abbey leaders in descending rank, and then a gift was given to each member of the community. By the eighth century, they are in use in the liturgical celebrations in Rome. The usage of the O Antiphons was so prevalent in monasteries that the phrases, Keep your O and The Great O Antiphons were common parlance. One may thereby conclude that in some fashion the O Antiphons have been part of our liturgical tradition since the very early Church.

The importance of O Antiphons is twofold: Each one highlights a title for the Messiah: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Rising Sun), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), and O Emmanuel. Also, each one refers to the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah.

Let’s now look at each antiphon with just a sample of Isaiah’s related prophecies :

O Sapientia: O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation. Isaiah had prophesied, The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord. (Isaiah 11:2-3), and Wonderful is His counsel and great is His wisdom. (Isaiah 28:29).

O Adonai: O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free. Isaiah had prophesied, But He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the lands afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips. (Isaiah 11:4-5); and Indeed the Lord will be there with us, majestic; yes the Lord our judge, the Lord our lawgiver, the Lord our king, he it is who will save us. (Isaiah 33:22).