O Wisdom, you came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and reach from one end of the earth to the other, rightly and sweetly ordering all things: Com and teach us the way of prudence.
Tonight is the first of the “Great O Antiphons.” These are short verses drawn from the prophet Isaiah said before and after the Song of Mary at Evening Prayer the week before Christmas. Each verse uses a different image or name for the Messiah, and each verse calls upon the Messiah to come and dwell with us. This yearning is fulfilled with Christmas.
The Latin version of the first antiphon (“O Sapientia”) is available for solo voice here, and as sung by a choir here. A link to an expanded study of these antiphons from an early 20th century Anglican author may be found here.
The First 'O Antiphon' is sung in praise of Christ as the Wisdom of God. This is often how the Early Church (and Eastern Christianity still) refers to Christ: as God’s Holy Wisdom for the world. Christ is the unique medicine for the illness of sin and alienation.
How much the world needs wisdom, as opposed to only more knowledge or – most especially in our day – more information! The accumulation of data has come to replace the acquisition of wisdom today, resulting in a loss of meaning, context, and coherence in contemporary life. Christ is the Wisdom of God, and by becoming part of his Body and living his Gospel, we enter into that Wisdom and experience his peace.
Try using these antiphons through the coming week as a spiritual preparation for the gift we are to receive at Christmas, and as an opportunity to go more deeply into the Advent season’s rich treasury of resources for prayer and hope.