Thursday, December 17, 2009


This 17th of December begins the ‘octave of preparation’ for Christmas, and it is marked liturgically in a couple of special ways: first of all, the general prophecies of messianic healing, saving and abundance in the 1st readings at Mass (many from Isaiah) are now replaced with specific references to Jesus. It starts today with the famous genealogy at the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel—it is seen as the fulfillment of the blessing Jacob/Israel gave, on his deathbed, to son #4, Judah.

The other way of marking these days is by the famous “O Antiphons,” the antiphons that stand at the head of the Magnificat (the Canticle of Mary) in the Breviary’s Evening Prayer. For those not so likely to pray the Breviary on a regular basis, these antiphons (adapted) are also used as part of the Gospel Acclamation at daily Mass. These antiphons begin with the word “O” (thence the name, of course) and always end with a petition that the Savior “come.” These antiphons are the basis, as well, of the verses of the Advent hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

Today’s antiphon:
O Wisdom, holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.

I hope you’ll enjoy this setting of the carol, in the original Latin, by Mannheim Steamroller.

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