Monday, December 17, 2007

O Sapientia

O SAPIENTIA, quae ex ore Altissimi prodidisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

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.

Today, December 17th, we enter upon a more solemn and urgent observation of the Advent season, during which holy mother Church counts down to the days until the appearance of the infant Saviour on Christmas Day.

This period, from December 17th to 23rd, is sometimes referred to as Sapientiatide, which name derives from the first of the great O antiphons sung at the Magnificat in the office of Vespers.

Each of these days has its own proper Magnificat antiphon. These seven antiphons are called the “Great Antiphons”, or more simply, the “Great O’s”, since each of them begins with the invocation O, thus:

Dec 17: O Sapientia
Dec 18: O Adonai
Dec 19: O Radix Jesse
Dec 20: O Clavis David
Dec 21: O Oriens
Dec 22: O Rex Gentium
Dec 23: O Emmanuel

There is a little-known fact about the order of these ancient O Antiphons. This is not apparent in English, but it can be seen clearly in the official language of the Roman Catholic Church: Latin. The Latin versions of each of the titles of the Messiah: Sapientia (Wisdom), Adonai (Lord), Radix (Root), Clavis (Key), Oriens (Dawn), Rex (King), and Emmanuel (Emmanuel). Take the first letters of each of the titles and write them backwards, thus counting down the days of the feast: EROCRAS or “ero cras”. This means in Latin “I will be (here) tomorrow”.

The song O Come, O Come, Emmanuel is simply a slightly modified sung version of the seven O Antiphons [the above two paragraphs quoted from Fr. Zuhlsdorf’s page on the the O Antiphons here].

Melancholicus loves the O Antiphons, and even though since he abandoned the seminary he no longer has access to solemn vespers chanted in choir, he always makes sure to chant each one in the evening of its proper day. The music for the Great O’s may be found in the Liber Usualis, and on the net Fr. Z has very helpfully provided the gregorian notation on his website, and even links to mp3 files so that visitors can hear the antiphons sung. Well worth a visit.

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