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Praising the Names of Jesus:
Praising the Names of Jesus:
The Antiphons of Advent
by Jeanne Kun
It is especially in the final week of Advent that our attention is fixed on the messianic promises proclaimed by the ancient prophets of Israel. A distinctive feature of the Liturgy of the Hours in this week preceding the Christmas vigil is the antiphon sung at Vespers (evening prayer) before and after the recitation of the Magnificat. Originally incorporated into the monastic office in the Middle Ages, these antiphons, often called the "Greater Antiphons" or the "O Antiphons", are also echoed in the daily lectionary as the verse for the gospel acclamation during this week. They add a mood of eager expectation to the liturgy that builds throughout these seven days and climaxes at Christmas.
The O Antiphons have been described as "a unique work of art and a special ornament of the pre-Christmas liturgy, filled with the Spirit of the Word of God". They "create a poetry that fills the liturgy with its splendour", and their composer shows "a magnificent command of the Bible's wealth of motifs". The antiphons are, in fact, a collage of Old Testament types of Christ. Their predominant theme is messianic, stressing the hope of the Savior's coming. Jesus is invoked by various titles, mainly taken from the prophet Isaiah. The sequence progresses historically, from the beginning, before creation, to the very gates of Bethlehem.
In their structure, each of the seven antiphons follows the same pattern, resembling a traditional liturgical prayer. Each O Antiphon begins with an invocation of the expected Messiah, followed by praise of him under one of his particular titles. Each ends with a petition for God's people, relevant to the title by which he is addressed, and the cry for him to "Come".
The seven titles attributed to Jesus in the antiphons are Wisdom (Sapientia in Latin), Ruler of the House of Israel (Adonai), Root of Jesse (Radix), Key of David (Clavis), Rising Dawn (Oriens), King of the Gentiles (Rex). and Emmanuel. In Latin, the initials of the titles make an acrostic which, when reading backwards. means: "Tomorrow I will be there" ("Ero Cras"). To the medieval mind, this was clearly a reference to the approaching Christmas vigil.
Today the O Antiphons are most familiar to us in the hymn "O come, O come Emmanuel". Each verse of the hymn parallels one of the antiphons. In addition to their use in the Liturgy of the Hours and the gospel acclamation, they have been popularly incorporated into church devotions and family prayer. An Advent prayer service for use at home, in school, or in the events of parish life can be built around the singing or recitation of the antiphons, accompanied by the related Scripture readings and prayers. They can be prayed at family dinner times or with the lighting of the Advent wreath, with a short explanation of their biblical background. The titles can also be depicted by simple symbols - for example, on banners and posters or in bulletin illustrations - to help us to reflect on these Advent themes.
Advent Carol Service: St John’s College Cambridge 1983
To watch with Christ.
. by Blessed John Henry Newman
Rorate Caeli - Catholic Gregorian Chant Hymns
[Note: The following is excerpted from Newman's sermon "Watching," first published in 1838 (in Parochial and Plain Sermons, Volume 4). Minor changes, including capitalization style, were made to allow the text to be more accessible to modern readers. Sub-headings were also added. Editor]
Let us consider this most serious question – What is it to watch with Christ? I consider this word watching a remarkable word; remarkable because the idea is not so obvious as might appear at first sight, and next because our Lord and his disciples inculcate it. We are not simply to believe, but to watch; not simply to love, but to watch; not simply to obey, but to watch; to watch for what? For that great event, Christ's coming...
Now, what is watching?
Do you know the feeling in matters of this life, of expecting a friend, expecting him to come, and he delays? Do you know what it is to be in unpleasant company, and to wish for the time to pass away, and the hour strike when you may be at liberty? Do you know what it is to be in anxiety lest something should happen which may happen or may not, or to be in suspense about some important event, which makes your heart beat when you are reminded of it, and of which you think the first thing in the morning?
Do you know what it is to have a friend in a distant country, to expect news of him, and to wonder from day to day what he is now doing, and whether he is well? Do you know what it is so to live upon a person who is present with you, that your eyes follow his, that you read his soul, that you see all its changes in his countenance, that you anticipate his wishes, that you smile in his smile, and are sad in his sadness, and are downcast when he is vexed, and rejoice in his successes? To watch for Christ is a feeling such as all these; as far as feelings of this world are fit to shadow out those of another.
He watches for Christ who has a sensitive, eager, apprehensive mind; who is awake, alive, quick-sighted, zealous in seeking and honoring him; who looks out for him in all that happens, and who would not be surprised, who would not be over-agitated or overwhelmed, if he found that he was coming at once.
And he watches with Christ, who, while he looks on to the future, looks back on the past, and does not so contemplate what his Savior has purchased for him, as to forget what he has suffered for him. He watches with Christ, whoever commemorates and renews in his own person Christ's cross and agony, and gladly takes up that mantle of affliction which Christ wore here, and left behind him when he ascended. And hence in the Epistles, often as the inspired writers show their desire for his second coming, as often do they show their memory of His first, and never lose sight of his crucifixion in his resurrection.
Thus if St. Paul reminds the Romans that they "wait for the redemption of the body" at the Last Day, he also says, "If so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." If he speaks to the Corinthians of "waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ," he also speaks of "always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body."
If he writes to the Philippians of "the power of [Christ's] resurrection," he adds at once "and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death." If he consoles the Colossians with the hope "when Christ shall appear," of their "appearing with him in glory," he has already declared that he [Paul] "fills up that which remains of the afflictions of Christ in his flesh for his body's sake, which is the church." [Rom. 8:17-28; 1 Cor.1:7; 2 Cor. 4:10; Phil. 3:10; Col.3:4, and 1:24.]
Thus the thought of what Christ is, must not obliterate from the mind the thought of what he was; and faith is always sorrowing with him while it rejoices. And the same union of opposite thoughts is impressed on us in holy communion, in which we see Christ's death and resurrection together, at one and the same time; we commemorate the one, we rejoice in the other; we make an offering, and we gain a blessing.
This then is to watch:
To be detached from what is present, and to live in what is unseen. To live in the thought of Christ as he came once, and as he will come again. To desire his second coming, from our affectionate and grateful remembrance of his first. And this it is, in which we shall find that men, in general, are wanting. They are indeed without faith and love also, but at least they profess to have these graces, nor is it easy to convince them that they have not. For they consider they have faith, if they do but own that the Bible came from God, or that they trust wholly in Christ for salvation; and they consider they have love if they obey some of the most obvious of God's commandments. Love and faith they think they have; but surely they do not even fancy that they watch. What is meant by watching, and how it is a duty, they have no definite idea; and thus it accidentally happens that watching is a suitable test of a Christian, in that it is that particular property of faith and love, which, essential as it is, men of this world do not even profess; that particular property, which is the life or energy of faith and love, the way in which faith and love, if genuine, show themselves...
...Year passes after year silently; Christ's coming is ever nearer than it was. O that, as he comes nearer earth, we may approach nearer heaven! O, my brethren, pray him to give you the heart to seek him in sincerity. Pray him to make you in earnest. You have one work only, to bear your cross after him. Resolve in his strength to do so. Resolve to be no longer beguiled by "shadows of religion," by words, or by disputings, or by notions, or by high professions, or by excuses, or by the world's promises or threats.
Obey with the best heart you have
Pray him to give you what Scripture calls "an honest and good heart," or "a perfect heart," and, without waiting, begin at once to obey him with the best heart you have. Any obedience is better than none. Any profession which is disjoined from obedience, is a mere pretence and deceit. Any religion which does not bring you nearer to God is of the world. You have to seek his face; obedience is the only way of seeking him. All your duties are obediences.
If you are to believe the truths he has revealed, to regulate yourselves by his precepts, to be frequent in his ordinances, to adhere to his church and people, why is it, except because he has bid you? And to do what he bids is to obey him, and to obey him is to approach him. Every act of obedience is an approach – an approach to him who is not far off, though he seems so, but close behind this visible screen of things which hides him from us. He is behind this material framework. Earth and sky are but a veil going between him and us. The day will come when he will rend that veil, and show himself to us. And then, according as we have waited for him, will he recompense us.
If we have forgotten him, he will not know us. But "blessed are those servants whom the Lord, when he comes, shall find watching... He shall gird himself, and make them sit down to eat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants" (Luke 12:37, 38). May this be the portion of every one of us! It is hard to attain it, but it is woeful to fail. Life is short; death is certain, and the world to come is everlasting.
Christians Have Lost Touch With Heaven!
By Christoph Cardinal Schonborn
Something very strange has taken place in the last few years: Christians have lost touch with heaven! Of the desire for heaven, our heavenly home, we hear hardly a word. It is as if Christians have lost the orientation that for centuries defined the direction of their journey. We have forgotten that we are pilgrims and that the goal of our pilgrimage is heaven. Connected with this is another loss: we largely lack the awareness that we are on a dangerous pilgrim path and that it is possible for us to miss our goal, to fail to reach the goal of our life. To put it bluntly: we do not long for heaven; we take it for granted that we shall get there. This diagnosis may be exaggerated, over-stated. The trouble is, I am afraid it is essentially true.
Against this loss and neglect, the Church's Easter message proclaims: “If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1). “My desire is to depart and be with Christ” (Philippians 1:23). This profound and pressing yearning does not strive for just any kind of “life after death” but is the desire “to be with Christ,” to live with him, to be “at home with the Lord”: “So we are always of good courage; we know that while we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. We are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:6-8).
“At home!” For so many people, who have lost their homes or their homeland, the word home is a word of longing. The English word home (home town or homeland), like the German Heimat, has a strongly emotional, almost devotional resonance, which we do not find in the Latin patria or the French patrie. Home is not just a particular landscape, not just its language, its familiar landmarks, but above all the people who live there. When the people we were familiar with (friends, neighbors, acquaintances) no longer live there, then home has died, even if the landscape has remained. How often have the great artists and writers of our century expressed their pain at the loss of their homelands. So many people have eaten the bitter bread of exile.
The Church is the promise of home. The man who has found the Church has found his way home. Paul speaks of this new home: “Our home [politeuma] is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). Our home is in heaven, because it is in heaven that we find our true family. That is why Paul tells the faithful in Ephesus: “You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). And we have found a Mother: “The Jerusalem above . . . is our mother” (Galatians 4:26). Home also means having a house to live in: “In my Father's house are many rooms . . . I go to prepare a place for you. And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:2-3).
The Church is first of all, then, a heavenly reality. She has her origin in the life of God himself, in the unity of the Blessed Trinity, and so, in the words of Hans Urs von Balthasar, she is “first and foremost a reality established in time from heaven”. The foundations of the Church are above, which is why Saint Augustine says:
“Since our foundation [Christ] is in heaven, let us be built up toward heaven . . for we are built spiritually, and our foundation lies above. Let us hasten, therefore, whither we are built.”
This look of longing toward the heavenly homeland is not an escape from our earthly responsibilities. On the contrary, hope for heaven, for full communion with Christ and all the angels and saints, is the very motor, the driving force, of Christian engagement in this world. Christian hope for the coming of God's Kingdom asks for both things from God: that his Kingdom may come in glory (or, as the Didache prays, “that grace may come and the world pass away”); and that his Kingdom may begin already here on earth.
[Excerpted from Loving the Church, by Christoph Schonborn, Archbishop of Vienna, Austria; translated by John Saward, © 1998, Ignatius Press, San Francisco. ]