Wednesday, Third week of Advent (O Antiphons, O Wisdom)
Blessed Ember Wednesday!
The traditional Mass for Advent’s Ember Wednesday is also called the “Golden Mass”.
In medieval times, the first letters of this Mass were written in gold
-sometimes the entire Mass–
and golden vestments were worn,
because the focus was on the golden mystery of our faith:
the Annunciation, when God first became Man in Mary’s womb.
The Golden Mass was held in early morning darkness,
lit by the golden glow of candlelight,
as we celebrated the entrance of the Light of the World into our darkness.
When the lectionary was revised,
this Gospel was transferred to the 4th Sunday of Advent for Year B–-this year!
Today’s first reading, however, does hearken back to the Introit of the Golden Mass.
May your prayer and sacrifices during these Ember Days
bless and sanctify the winter season for you and for the whole world.
Today, we also begin a period called the “golden nights”, the final count-down to Christmas,
during which we pray the O Antiphons–they all begin with “O” and are antiphons (responses)
to the Magnificat (Mary’s song of praise: Luke 1:46-55).
These antiphons were originally composed at least 1000 years ago
for use during Evening Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours,
the prayer that priests and Religious promise to pray every day
(laypeople are encouraged to pray it too).
These antiphons are also used as the Alleluia verse during Mass during these count-down days.
In the O Antiphons we call Jesus by titles given to Him in the prophesies of Isaiah
and plead with Him to come and save us.
In Latin, the initials of the titles of Jesus used in the O Antiphons,
when read backwards, form an acrostic for the Latin “Ero Cras” which means “Tomorrow I come”
(which will be true the night before Christmas Eve, when we will have prayed all of these antiphons).
These titles for Christ are:
Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse),
Clavis David (Key of David),
Oriens (Morning Star),
Rex Gentium (King of the Gentiles),
These antiphons are also found in the song, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”.
In the home, the O Antiphons could be prayed together around the Advent wreath
when you light the candles (if you don’t have an Advent wreath,
lighting any candle while you pray helps set the atmosphere).
For a longer prayer, you could pray the O Antiphon before and after the Magnificat,
the way it’s prayed during Evening Prayer.
You could also make symbols for the antiphons to use in decorating
(oil lamp, burning bush, key, stump with shoot, rising sun, etc.)
Here’s today’s antiphon:
Who issued from the mouth of the Most High,
Reaching out mightily from end to end,
And ordering all things tenderly
Come to teach us the way of prudence.
Note the relationship with the following verses:
And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him:
the spirit of wisdom, and of understanding,
the spirit of counsel, and of fortitude,
the spirit of knowledge, and of godliness.
And he shall be filled with the spirit of the fear of the Lord
(see also Isaiah 28:29, Sirach 24:2-3 & Wisdom 8:1.)
A shift in the readings of Advent begins today too.
From here on our Gospels will be dealing more directly with the events
immediately leading up to Jesus’ birth.
Rejoice, O heavens, and exult, O earth,
for our Lord will come to show mercy to His poor
O God, Creator and Redeemer of human nature,
who willed that Your Word should take flesh
in an ever-virgin womb,
look with favor on our prayers,
that Your Only Begotten Son,
having taken to Himself our humanity,
may be pleased to grant us a share in His divinity.
Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Genesis 49:2, 8-10 (The scepter shall not depart from Judah)
Psalm 72: 3-4, 7-8, 17 “Justice shall flourish in His time and fullness of peace forever”
+ Matthew 1:1-17 (genealogy of Jesus)
This root is planted deep
in human history.
It touches the beginning
and the end.
It spans the epochs,
by just a thread
and waxing strong,
and the good
in bringing forth
Lord, plant Your root
deep in my history,
my rising, falling,
and my good,
and ruling all
unto your perfect praise.
Do I lay all my ways open to Him?
Is He King of all of me?