• David Carlson

643 The O Antiphons: O Wisdom of our Divine Most High, come teach us the path of knowledge

Day 643 Sunday, December 19, 2021

O Wisdom of our Divine Most High, come teach us the path of knowledge!



Each day in the seven last days of Advent, an antiphon is appointed to be sung alongside the Song of Mary (Magnificat) at Evening Prayer. Each antiphon borrows an image or metaphor from the Hebrew Bible that reveals something about the Divine. These antiphons have come to be known as the "O Antiphons," and inspire the text of the popular Advent hymn, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel."


We Christians have a multitude of images for The Divine. Many of them come from Hebrew Scripture, but not all of them. The ancient Hebrews forbade any visual image of The Divine - no paintings, no sculptures, no object that might become a false idol. But the verbal, poetic images they created are vivid, even exciting. They say something about The Divine. They open up the Holy One in our imagination, and in our lives of prayer and devotion.


December 17

O Wisdom of our Divine Most High,

guiding creation with power and love:

come teach us the path of knowledge!


Wisdom to remember that accessible healthcare for my neighbor improves my own health. Wisdom to notice what my privilege hides from me.

Wisdom to care about the ethical dimension of what I cook for dinner.

Wisdom to be vulnerable and conscious in my relationship with you.

Wisdom to hold my beliefs in a matrix of healthy doubt.

The Divine as Wisdom.


December 18

O Leader of the House of Israel,

giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai:

come to rescue us with your mighty power!


O Adonai: 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.

The Divine as Adonai.



December 19

O Root of Jesse’s stem,

sign of The Divine’s love for all his people:

come to save us without delay!


O Root of Jesse:

A heavy Root that anchors the soaring tree.

A stretching Root that draws life from the rocky earth.

A sheltering Root that houses the smallest and homeliest creatures.

An invasive Root that buckles our sidewalks, forcing us onto a new path.

A dying Root that gives its nutrients to a new sapling.

The Divine as Root.



December 20

O Key of David,

opening the gates of The Divine’s eternal Kingdom:

come and free the prisoners of darkness!


O Key of David:

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.

The Divine as Key.



December 21

O Radiant Dawn,

splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:

come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the

shadow of death.


O Radiant Dawn:

Dayspring returns: starting today, a couple of minutes each day, the sun strengthens and lengthens.

Dayspring dazzles: a masterful musician, a skillful surgeon, a discerning sage.

Dayspring enlightens: a radical idea, a brilliant discovery, a life-changing question.

Dayspring burns: an angry prophet, a painful moment of truth, a vigorous argument.

Dayspring warms: a neonatal heat lamp, a roaring hearth, chili simmering on a cooktop burner--and there's enough for all.

The Divine as Dayspring.



December 22

O Shepherd of all nations and keystone of the Church:

come and save us, whom you formed from the dust!


O Shepherd of all Nations:

Keystone that binds my conscience to my neighbor's plight.

Keystone that binds a murderer to his victim's family in a terrible yet redemptive connection. Keystone that binds a married couple in a tense yet creative intimacy.

Keystone that binds us with our so-called enemies on one green earth.

Keystone that binds living and dead together in one communion of saints.

The Divine as Keystone.


December 23

O Emmanuel, our Love and Giver of Law:

come to save us, Emmanuel Divine within us!


O Emmanuel: The Divine within us: an infant nurses at her mother's breast, both of them so luminous that even the baby wipes are caught up in the Holy.

The Divine-within-us: a night chaplain sits with a family as they stagger under the weight of tragedy. The Divine-with-us: long-estranged friends embrace, and agree to do the hard work of mutual forgiveness.

The Divine-within-us: a woman in detox awakens from her nightmare and discovers that she is not alone.

The Divine-within-us: "O great mystery, that farm animal witnessed the birth of the Christ child!"

The Divine as The Divine-within-us.


Reflection: "The O Antiphons of Advent"

by Rev. Larry Rice, CSP


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