Reflections on the O Antiphons

Thanks to all who expressed an interest in these. Here they are in one place.

Each day in in the seven last days of Advent, an antiphon is appointed to be sung alongside the Song of Mary (Magnificat) at Evening Prayer. Each antiphon borrows an image or metaphor from the Hebrew Bible that reveals something about God. These antiphons have come to be known as the "O Antiphons," and inspire the text of the popular Advent hymn, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." I reflected on these images and wrote a few thoughts about what the images mean to me.

December 17

O Sapientia: Wisdom to remember that accessible healthcare for my neighbor improves my own health. Wisdom to notice what my privilege hides from me. Wisdom to care about the ethical dimension of what I cook for dinner. Wisdom to be vulnerable and conscious in my relationship with you. Wisdom to hold my beliefs in a matrix of healthy doubt. God as Wisdom.

December 18

O Adonai: Adonai to powerfully overthrow our oppressors. Adonai to powerfully challenge our own oppressive behaviors. Adonai to powerfully defend the weakest and most vulnerable among us. Adonai to powerfully confront our internal demons of anxiety. Adonai to powerfully overcome perpetrators of terror, torture, and genocide. God as Adonai.

December 19

O Radix Jesse: A heavy Root that anchors the soaring tree. A stretching Root that draws life from the rocky earth. A sheltering Root that houses the smallest and homeliest creatures. An invasive Root that buckles our sidewalks, forcing us onto a new path. A dying Root that gives its nutrients to a new sapling. God as Root.

December 20

O Clavis David: A Key that opens a barn for a pregnant mother and her anxious husband. A Key that opens doors for immigrants so they can find work and dignity. A Key that opens minds and hearts to unfamiliar and frightening ideas. A Key that explains the symbols on a map so I can find my way home. A skeleton Key that opens everything, even the door of death. God as Key.

December 21

O Oriens: Dayspring returns: starting today, a couple of minutes each day, the sun strengthens and lengthens. Dayspring dazzles: a masterful musician, a skillful surgeon, a discerning sage. Dayspring enlightens: a radical idea, a brilliant discovery, a life-changing question. Dayspring burns: an angry prophet, a painful moment of truth, a vigorous argument. Dayspring warms: a neonatal heat lamp, a roaring hearth, chili simmering on a cooktop burner--and there's enough for all. God as Dayspring.

December 22

O Rex Gentium: Keystone that binds my conscience to my neighbor's plight. Keystone that binds a murderer to his victim's family in a terrible yet redemptive connection. Keystone that binds a married couple in a tense yet creative intimacy. Keystone that binds us with our so-called enemies on one green earth. Keystone that binds living and dead together in one communion of saints. God as Keystone.

December 23

O Emmanuel: God-with-us: an infant nurses at her mother's breast, both of them so luminous that even the baby wipes are caught up in the Holy. God-with-us: a night chaplain sits with a family as they stagger under the weight of tragedy. God-with-us: long-estranged friends embrace, and agree to do the hard work of mutual forgiveness. God-with-us: a woman in detox awakens from her nightmare and discovers that she is not alone. God-with-us: "O great mystery, that farm animals witnessed the birth of the Christ child!" God as God-with-us.