THE O ANTIPHONS AT THE END OF ADVENT
Brothers and Sisters,
Many days of the Church year are feast days for various saints or events in Christ’s life. The last days of the Advent Season are unique in that they are named for the opening antiphon for Holy Mass that day. Here is the complete list of the O-Antiphons:
17 December: O Sapientia (O Wisdom from on High)
18 December: O Adonai (O God and Leader of Israel)
19 December: O Radix Jesse (O Branch of Jesse’s Tree)
20 December: O Clavis David (O Key of David)
21 December: O Oriens (O Dayspring from on High)
22 December: O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations)
23 December: O Emmanuel (O God Who Is Near Us)
These O-Antiphons have been used since at least the Eighth Century (the 700s). These seven prayers are a use of “typology.” In the Church, typology is generally used to demonstrate how the Old Testament points toward Christ. The first half of the Bible is much more than a placeholder as humanity waited for Christ to finally show up. The Old Testament shows how Almighty God very intentionally prepared the world, prepared humanity for the coming of the Messiah.
You might well predict that my favorite of the O-Antiphons is O Emmanuel / O God Who is Near Us.
The Bible begins with God being near to humanity. The Book of Genesis speaks of God strolling through the Garden of Eden with the first humans. Then, after the first sin (the “Fall of Humanity”), God is said to be wondering through the Garden of Eden and calling out to Adam and Eve, saying “where are you?” (cf. Genesis 3:8-9).
With each of our sins, we distance ourselves from God Almighty. The whole of the Old Testament that follows is the story of God chasing after us, trying to be near to us again and trying to get us back to our original holiness. It is His goal that we come return to Him – just like the Prodigal Son in Christ’s parable (Luke 15:20-21). In that story, the son (the son is us, humanity) eventually comes back towards his Father (God) after learning the hard way that leaving the Father/God was a terrible and tragic mistake. When the son (humanity) approaches the Father’s House, we read that the Father “ran” out to meet the returning son.
God is not merely waiting in Heaven for us to crawl towards Him and beg for entry into the afterlife’s good side of the coin. Rather, God the Father is waiting to run toward us just as soon as we are willing to come to Him.
Advent is half over now. Use the last two weeks to return to the Father, to see Christ the Son, and to pray that the Holy Ghost guides us to all wisdom. Happy “Rejoice” Sunday of Advent to you and yours.
God be near,