by Stephen Crippen
The liturgy for evening prayer (Vespers) includes the singing of the Magnificat, St. Mary’s song of victory and praise. Antiphons are appointed to be sung before and after the Magnificat, usually tailored to the feast day or season. In the last seven days of Advent, the appointed antiphons are the beloved “O Antiphons,” seven short verses that borrow images of God from the Hebrew scriptures to pray for Christ’s coming.
One of my spiritual disciplines is to write very short reflections on an image. I like to train myself to write sparingly about a theme, idea, or metaphor. For each O Antiphon, I searched for five ways to open up the image and shape my prayer during these late days of Advent.
I’ll post further reflections in the coming days, but here are the first four. Blessed Advent!
O come, O Key of David, come, and open wide our heavenly home; make safe the way that leads on high, and close the path to misery.
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.
O come, O Branch of Jesse's tree; free them from dreadful tyranny who trust your awesome power to save, and give them victory over the grave.
A Branch that shades living creatures from the noonday sun. A Branch that holds and hides the nest. A Branch that returns oxygen to earth's atmosphere. A Branch of fragrant flowers and nourishing fruit. A bare Branch that buds with life. God as Branch.
O come, O Adonai of might, who to your tribes on Sinai's height, in ancient times once gave the law, in cloud and majesty and awe.
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.
O come, Sophia from on high, who governs all things tenderly; to us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in your ways to go.
Wisdom to remember that human lives depend on quality health care. Wisdom to notice what our culture wants to hide from us. Wisdom to care about the ethical dimension of what we cook for dinner. Wisdom to ask more questions than we answer. Wisdom to hold our beliefs in a matrix of healthy doubt. God as Wisdom.
Stephen is a therapist and postulant to the Diaconate. You can find his personal blog here.