Pastor McCain on Cyberbrethren raises the question of what's so great about the medieval O antiphons? So many thoughts crowd the mind. First, those who were blessed to hear Pr. William Schmelder hold forth on them during the waning days of December at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis need no further reason - Pr. Schmelder unpacked for us how they always gave us of Jesus.
But I don't think anyone can appreciate the Antiphons fully outside of their proper setting, which is as the antiphon for the Magnificat in Vespers.
This time of the year, I usually head over to the Church about 4 p.m. to pray Vespers. By then the sanctuary is already growing dark. I light a candle upon the altar and proceed to pray the Office. By the time the psalms are sung and the Scriptures read, and silence has been kept for meditation, the darkness is even more pronounced in the room. And then from the light of the candle, I look at the Antiphon on the page and intone it. Above St. Paul's altar there is a statue of our Lord. Looking at, I sing to him whom the statue depicts. O Wisdom, yesterday. Today, O Adonai. Yes, this One is the very same who appeared to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the law on Sinai. He who later came in our flesh "with an outstretched arm to save us." Yes, think of how that arm was stretched out to save you. Think of it. And then join Mary in her song: "My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior." Then the antiphon focuses us again upon the Lord Jesus: Adonai...
The Evangelist tell us that at eventide, the villagers gathered around the door and brought to Jesus their sick and suffering and begged Him to come out and touch them. So at eventide, the Church remembers and prays for the sick, the suffering, the needy. Asks the Lord to have mercy upon them all.
When the liturgy of Vespers has drawn to a close on these last days of Advent, I blow out the candle and sing the appropriate verse of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." Today: "O come, O come, Thou Lord of might, who to thy tribes on Sinai's height in ancient times didst give the law in cloud and majesty and awe. Rejoice, rejoice..." I sang that tonight kneeling before the image of the Lord Jesus, knocking at the door, asking entrance to our lives as He always does, that He might fill us with Himself. To Him the Church always prays: O come, O come! Enter in, fill us, make us your own, O loving Lord.
I know that's not a very rational way to describe the blessing of the Great O's, but it describes how I experience them and how much I value and treasure these days, these precious days before the Nativity. Tomorrow, Radix Jesse.