Sunday, 16 December 2012

Latin prayer(s) of the week: the O antiphons

Rather than focus on one prayer this week, I want to provide one for each day, in the form of the great O antiphons, sung with the Magnificat each day in the lead up to Christmas.

Tomorrow I will come...

The O antiphons appear to be very ancient indeed, and have been arranged so that if you work backwards, the first letter of each one together forms two words, viz Ero Cras, or tomorrow I will come, viz:

(December 23) O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.

(December 22) O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.

(December 21) O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

(December 20) O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel; qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

(December 19) O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem Gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

(December 18) O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

(December 17) O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

I will give the translation of each verse each day over the next week, with a recording of it, but you will find it extremely familiar indeed, since the hymn O Come O Come Emmanuel is a paraphrase of it.

Truly, I will come...

But there is also a very nice piece of the Anglican patrimony we can recover here, since in medieval England an eighth antiphon was added by starting the set a day early and adding one at the end, thus making the acrostic Vero cras.

I've put it at the beginnng of the series rather than the end, in order to preserve the ordering of the antiphons used in the 1962 brevaries.

Here is the traditional text, preserved in the liturgy of the Church of England:

O Virgo virginum, quomodo fiet istud?
Quia nec primam similem visa es nec habere sequentem.
Filiae Jerusalem, quid me admiramini?
Divinum est mysterium hoc quod cernitis.


O Virgin of virgins, how shall this be?
For neither before thee was any like thee, nor shall there be after.
Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me?
The thing which ye behold is a divine mystery.

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