Today, we begin the home stretch of our Advent season of anticipation…with the countdown of the ‘O Antiphons’…a thousand-year-old liturgical tradition that will continue through Christmas Eve. So perhaps a holy pause is in order, to savor the first in the series:
O Wisdom of our God Most High,
guiding creation with power and love:
come to teach us the path of knowledge!
As for the origins of the ‘O Antiphon’ tradition, here’s an explanation from the Roman Catholic Lectionary Website, compiled by Felix Just, S.J.:
Most familiar today from the Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” the seven traditional “O Antiphons” are actually more than a thousand years old. They have long been used at the very end of Advent (Dec. 17-23) in the liturgical prayer of the Church, as Antiphons for the “Magnificat” sung or recited during Vespers (the Evening Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours). Since the Second Vatican Council, they have also been adapted (slightly reworded and rearranged) for the “Alleluia Verse” of the Mass (the short scriptural text or paraphrase that immediately precedes the Gospel reading). Each Antiphon invokes the coming of the Messiah, beginning with a biblical title and closing with a specific petition.
So, one more time, for good measure — the O Antiphon for December 17:
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.