The Great O Antiphons

On Wednesday, December 15, we will have a service of Lessons and Carols for Advent.  This will be an opportunity to recall the promise of the Savior’s coming in the form of Old Testament prophecy and traditional music of the season.  This service will also be the conclusion of the “Wednesdays at Trinity” activities for 2010; dinner in Gravely Hall at 5:45, followed by the service at 6:30.

The seven lessons and seven carols at this service will be chosen and organized around the so-called “Great O Antiphons,” a series of chants that were sung along with the Magnificat at Vespers on the seven nights before Christmas Eve.  Each antiphon is a prayer for deliverance, and they all begin by addressing the Messiah by one of the prophetic titles found in the Old Testament:

Dec 17       O Sapientia (Wisdom)
Dec 18       O Adonai (Sacred Lord)
Dec 19       O Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse)
Dec 20       O Clavis David (Key of David)
Dec 21       O Oriens (Dayspring)
Dec 22       O Rex Genitum (King of the nations)
Dec 23       O Emmanuel (God with us)

These antiphons embed a striking acrostic: read in inverse order from last to first, the second letter of each antiphon spells out the words ERO CRAS, which in Latin means “tomorrow I will be with you,” a message that is not revealed until the final antiphon is sung on December 23. 

In the event that they might help in your devotional observance of Advent, here are the complete texts of all the antiphons:

December 17 – O Sapientia (Wisdom)

O Wisdom, proceeding from the mouth of the Most High,
Pervading and permeating all creation, mightily ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

December 18 – O Adonai (Sacred Lord)

O Adonai and Ruler of the house of Israel,
Who appeared to Moses in the burning bush and gave him the Law on Sinai:
Come with an outstretched arm and redeem us.

December 19 – O Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse)

O Root of Jesse, who stands for an ensign of the peoples,
Before whom kings are mute and to whom the nations will do homage: 
Come quickly to deliver us.

December 20 – O Clavis David (Key of David)

O Key of David and Scepter of the house of Israel, 
You open and no one can close, You close and no one can open:  
Come and rescue the prisoners who are in darkness and in the shadow of death.

December 21 – O Oriens (Dayspring)

O Dayspring,
Splendor of Light everlasting: 
Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

December 22 – O Rex Genitum (King of the nations)

O King of Nations,
The Ruler they long for, the Cornerstone uniting all people:
Come and save us all, whom you formed out of clay.

December 23 – O Emmanuel (God with us)

O Emmanuel, our King and our Lord,
The Anointed for the nations and their Savior:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.

Celebrating the Incarnation: Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany

In the gospel of John, the Evangelist begins by saying that Jesus’s divinity is one with the Father from before the beginning of the world.  John’s next assertion is more astonishing still, that Jesus put aside his divinity to become a human.  John puts it this way: “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory…” (John 1:14). 

The mystery and wonder of how this happens unfolds for us over these next weeks in three distinct but intimately connected seasons of the church year:.  Please allow me to highlight a few of the opportunities that we have to celebrate this holy season: in Advent, we hear God’s promise of salvation in the Messiah and we prepare our hearts and our lives for his appearance; during Christmas, we contemplate the wonder of God’s incarnation in the form of a human being; and during Epiphany, we celebrate the Gospel as a light to our lives and a gift for the whole world. 

The lessons for the four weeks of Advent explore how the prophecies of the Old Testament find their fulfillment in the person of Jesus Christ; so the themes that run through our worship are those of promise, expectation, readiness, hope, and above all, joy.  Another prominent image for this season is how light comes into the world at the darkest time of the year.  The music during these four Sundays will touch on all of these themes and we will try strike a balance between quiet introspection and joyful expectancy. 

Please be sure to check the Upcoming Events page for details about worship opportunities that we have to celebrate this holy and wonderful season together.

Music from this Past Sunday

Christ the King (November 21)

Chris Ackerman and John Crowley, trumpets; Steve Kirkman, timpani

Hymn 494: Crown him with many crowns (Diademata)

Psalm 46

Anglican Chant: T. Tertius Noble (1867-1953)

Bach, arr. Thomas: Alleluia! O praise the Lord most holy, BWV 207a

Shephard: The Secret of Christ

Lisa Jennings, soprano

Hymn 495: Hail, thou once-despised Jesus (In Babilone)

Bach: ‘Nun danket alle Gott’ from Cantata 79

Music from This Past Sunday

Pentecost 24 (Novemver 7)

Parker: Lord, thou hast searched me

The text is a version of Psalm 139 sung to the early American hymn tune Tender Thought  in an arrangement by Alice Parker.  The men of the choir sang it with the piano from the front of the church as the Prelude. 

Hymn: For the beauty of the earth (Dix)

The final stanza is David Willcoks’s familiar arrangement from the Carols for Choirs version of the Epiphany hymn,  “As with gladness men of old.”

Hymn 490: I want to walk as a child of the light (Houston)

This was the sequence hymn, two stanzas of which we sang before the Gospel and one stanza after.  This is the “after,” with a descant by B.  C. Beattie. 

Hymn 587: Our Father, by whose Name (Rhosymedre)

TRIVIA: The author of this text, the Rev. F. Bland Tucker, was the only person who was instrumental in the formation of both the 1940 and 1982 Episcopal hymnals.   

Vaughan Williams: Rhosymedre (Hymn 587)

This is the second of three preludes on Welsh hymn tunes written by Vaughan Williams in 1920.  It is one of the most beautiful organ pieces I know; no one gets married or buried in our church without having this played.

Music from this Past Sunday

Pentecost 23 (October 31)

Handel: ‘The Lord is righteous’

Aria from Chandos Anthem No. 5, I will magnify thee.  Kristine Chaney, soprano; Jessica Miller, oboe; Tamar Ben-Pazi, cello

Hymn 390: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (Lobe den Herren)

Harmoniztion in stanza 2 by David N. Johnson

Hymn 433: We gather together (Kremser)

Haydn, arr. Manney: Great and glorious

Wood: O thou sweetest Source

Hymn 657: Love divine, all loves excelling (Hyfrydol)

Walther: Freu dich sehr, O meine Seele (Hymn 67)

Two things about this piece:  first, I had listed in the bulletin that I would play Goerg Boehm’s setting of the same tune.  Boehm’s arrangement, an extended set of variations, is also a very nice piece–but I had forgotten about the Walther, which is equally nice and a bit more compact.  Johann Gottfried Walther was a cousin of Bach’s.  Second, although Freu dich sehr, O meine Seele is usaully an Advent tune, I played it today because it is the melody on which Wood’s ‘O thou sweetest Source” is based (see previous post).