The Advent Antiphons are said or sung before and after the Magnificat at Vespers each evening of the week immediately prior to Christmas. Each one speaks of an aspect of the One who is to come, Israel’s hope, and a Light to the Gentiles.
In this set of reflections each of the seven Antiphons is juxtaposed with one of the seven ‘I AM’ sayings of Jesus Christ, the embodied Hope of all Creation – the Word made flesh.
In this video, the Dominican brothers of Blackfriars Oxford sing the Antiphon,
- O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,
- attingens a fine usque ad finem,
- fortiter suaviter disponens que omnia:
- veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.
- O Wisdom, you came forth from the mouth of the Most High,
- and reaching from the beginning to end,
- you ordered all things mightily and sweetly.
- Come, and teach us the way of prudence.
- (Translation from Benedictine Daily Prayer; Liturgical Press)
- ‘Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’
- To be Christian is, as it were, to live in a state of contemplation – that is that our attention is, like that of Mary upon him, in amidst ‘the many things’ He fills our vision and thus we can only ‘see’ the world through Christ.
- Advent offers us the gift of renewing that contemplation, of abandoning distractions. It is a reminder from the Church, to which we are ‘members’ through baptism, of the counsel of the writer to the Hebrews: that is, to ‘lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith’
- It is a commonplace that our age excels in distractions. Like the circuses of old, Distraction has become our way of life, so much so that we believe we are attentive not at all distracted. In so many ways we are surrounded by multiple media of distraction, each cleverly tuned to our attentive weakness. And when we are so entranced, so captivated – when ‘Distraction’ has become for us our way of being in the World . . .
- At the root of much, if not all of our distraction is the Ancient distraction of Knowledge. Knowledge which promises that which we desire above all things, control of our own lives, that we ‘might be like God’. And so the alluring appeal of, for example, these words from Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia ‘Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet has free access to the sum of all human knowledge’. There are few if any of us, who can say in truth that we do not find the allure of such a situation somewhat attractive, that is, Distracting. For if together we knew everything, then we would all be ‘one people, . . . [having] one language; and this [would] only the beginning of what [we could] do; nothing that [we] propose to do [would] be impossible for [us]’ Gen 11:6
- Thomas, Jesus’ disciple blindly grasps for this knowledge. ‘Lord. We do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ Where is the map? What does the Way look like? Where are you going? Tell us these things and we shall be satisfied. And so he desires knowledge, apart from Jesus. Like so many of us today, understanding ‘faith’ in terms of ‘beliefs’ to which we may or may not assent, that we know for ourselves. Like the rich young man Jesus encounters, seeking an answer to the question ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Seeking to retain control through appropriate knowledge. Tell me and then I can go my own way.
- Jesus in his answer to the young man, and in his answer to Thomas, shatters all our attempts to create eternal life on our own terms, to ‘make a life for ourselves’. ‘I Am the Way and the Truth and the Life’
- And here there is a double move, from facts to relationship, and from impersonal to personal knowing. Not that eternal life is to know facts personally, but it is to Know The Person. The One in whom all things hold together, and by and through and for whom all things exist.The One who ‘came forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from the beginning to end, who ordered all things mightily and sweetly.’
- This double move is that from Knowledge to Wisdom. From the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil which leads us away from the Goodness of Life, to the Tree of Life, and the One who resides there.
- St Paul says Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God.
- Ancient Wisdom – which danced before the Lord before the beginning of Creation – in his Flesh reconciling all things to God.
- ‘Now this is eternal life, that they might know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent’
- To be Christian is to live in a state of contemplation. He fills our vision and thus we can only ‘see’ the world through Christ.
- Let us abandon distractions.
- May the Wisdom of God be The the object of our Contemplation, both through this Advent, and to His Appearing