Advent 2020 – The Great O Antiphons
Based upon: Luke 1: 46-55
By Bob Cooper, Archdeacon of Sunderland – Please Share Widely
I don’t know about you, and you may not believe this about me, sometimes I am stuck for words when asked for a response to something. It’s possible to clam up, or when you have walked away 30 minutes later think – do you know what I should have said was….
When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, who herself was pregnant with John the Baptist, Mary’s response as recorded in Luke Chapter 1 is what we now call The Magnificat. My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my saviour.
This is Mary’s statement of faith in God; her rejoicing in her calling to be theotokos, the God bearer; her praise of His mercy, his strength and his holiness; it is a foreshadowing of the coming of the justice of the Kingdom of God; and it is her exaltation of God because of the fulfilment of His promises throughout the generations. It is a beautiful credal statement, song of praise and affirmation of love.
The Magnificat has a special part within the worship of The Church. Countless Christians daily recite it as part of Evening prayer. In Cathedrals throughout the land this great affirming hymn of dedication and faith is sung to glorious chants which span the centuries. In the Taize Community we hear the chant “Magnificat anima mea Dominum” where the voices of Christians from across all parts of God’s earth come together to join in proclaiming the greatness of God.
During this Advent season when we prepare our hearts to meet our Incarnate Lord we also continue to praise God in the words of the Magnificat. In the next few days colleagues are going to be reflecting on a particular part of the Magnificat which has been part of the worship of the Church for over 16 centuries. The great O anitiphons are used when reciting the Magnificat each day from the 17th to the 23rd of December. They are words which reflect on the titles of the Messiah but also on the prophecies of Isaiah about the hope that enters the world in Christ. O Wisdom, O Lord, O root of Jesse, O Key of David, O Dayspring, O King of the Nations, O Emmanuel.
As we look forward to welcoming God Incarnate in the form of Jesus Christ this Christmas may our hearts and voices sing in response to God’s call on our lives, lay and ordained; may we never be short of the words to proclaim Jesus in the world; may we say in all joy “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord”.
If you would like to read more about the O Antiphons – you could start here