The O Antiphons – Day 1, 12/17

 

Advent hymns speak to the longing in our hearts for the coming of Christ. We sing them each year during this holy season, embedded with rich and deep significance for all. By far one of the most popular, and my personal favorite, is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” with 7 grand stanzas. Each verse known as one of the “O Antiphons.” Each of the 7 “antiphons” depict 7 “types” of Christ presented to us prophetically in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the first Advent of Christ’s incarnation recorded in the New Testament.

The term “antiphon” literally means “opposite voice” or “responsorial voice” as would occur between a choir and congregation, a call and response. From one to another, the voices call out from side to side, back and forth, to and from. The Antiphons in this hymn are filled with “alternating” voices of meaning, from the Old to the New Testaments, from the prophecies foretold of Christ to the fulfillment thereof. From the prophetic not yet to the present already and onward to the future not yet…a groaning of sorts in anticipation of Christ’s coming, in His incarnational arrival as a child, and in His future coming in yet-to-be-revealed glory.  The antiphonal voices of the prophets are joined responsively by the king himself, Jesus, and his faithful disciples then and now.

This ancient hymn was originally penned in Latin in the 12th century (Veni, Veni Emmanuel). The version most often used today was translated into English in 1851 by John Mason Neale and includes three more verses than Sufjan sings.

The hymn was inspired by the traditional O Antiphons sung at Vespers services during the final seven day stretch of Advent. An antiphon (from the Greek anti + phon meaning opposite + voice) refers to a call and response mode of singing. The seven O Antiphons are comprised of a title for the Messiah from the prophet Isaiah: O Sapienta (Wisdom), O Adonia (Lord), O Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (Key of David), O Oriens (Rising Sun, Morning Star, or Day-Spring), O Rex Gentium (King of Nations), and O Emmanuel (God with us).

A fascinating fact from the O Antiphons is that the titles for the Messiah in reverse order Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonia, Sapienta form an acrostic ERO CRAS in Latin, which is translated “I will come tomorrow.” Those monks who wrote and arranged the lyrics to the O Antiphons married theological and artistic creativity in a fabulous way.* We will consider one of the antiphons each day prior to Christmas Eve.

December 17 – Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel

That mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

This first “type” of Christ, foretold in Isaiah and revealed in the gospel of Matthew, is Emmanuel. The “with us” God is prophesied and fulfilled in Christ Jesus. He came to us in the flesh as a baby boy, and He comes to us and abides with us as Emmanuel. His coming sets the captives free, provides companionship for the lonely, and ongoing hope for all who mourn in places of exile and wandering from God.

Invite Jesus to come into the inner recesses of your heart today to set you free, provide intimate companionship, and convert your anxiety into hope.

*Special thanks to Kevin Antlitz for his excellent blog insights on the O Antiphons (in the introduction above) which can be found at transcendentalish.com – check it out!

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Steve Macchia

Founder & President

The Rev. Dr. Stephen A. Macchia is founder and president of Leadership Transformations, Inc. (LTI), a ministry serving the spiritual formation, discernment, and renewal of leaders and learners since 2003. For more than 20 years he has been the Director of the Pierce Center for Disciple-Building at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also serves as an adjunct faculty member in the Doctor of Ministry Program. From 1989-2003 he was the president of Vision New England, the largest regional church renewal association in the country. Earlier in his ministry life, Steve was a member of the pastoral staff of Grace Chapel in Lexington, Massachusetts for 11 years. He is the author or co-author of 17 books, including The Discerning Life (Zondervan Reflective), and Crafting a Rule of Life, Becoming A Healthy Church (LTI), and Broken and Whole (IVP).  He and his wife Ruth live in the Boston (MA) area and are the proud parents of two married children and grandparents to three adorable grandchildren. Steve’s personal website is www.SteveMacchia.com.

My soul comes alive singing the great hymns of the church and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation. I’m in awe of God for fulfilling the dream for LTI that he birthed in my heart, for the team he has assembled, and the transformational impact experienced in the leaders and teams we serve.

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Mitzi Mak

Selah-West Faculty

Mitzi started her professional life as a high school social studies teacher. She and her husband Jerry then served cross-culturally for ten+ years, living abroad first in India and then Kurdistan, N. Iraq. In addition to being a Spiritual Director, she now serves as a Formation and Care pastor in her local church in Houston, TX. She has graduated from LTI’s Selah Spiritual Direction training as well as LTI’s Emmaus Formational Leadership Program.

Mitzi enjoys engaging conversation, reading fiction, doing jigsaw/crossword puzzles, ocean gazing and exploring the world with Jerry through food and travel.

God has two main callings in Mitzi’s life: to care for those who care for others and to be a guide in helping others have a healthy relationship with the Trinity – recognizing God’s loving presence and activity in their lives and how to faithfully respond.

Selah was a transformative experience for me – allowing the contemplative within to emerge and to beautifully co-exist with my extraverted personality.