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In the spirit of not reinventing the wheel reblogging on the O Antiphons.

Originally posted on Cooking for Jesus: Celebrating the Christian Year:

Divine Sophia

Perhaps the best known Advent hymn is “O Come, o Come, Emmanuel.” What you may not know is that it is not 1 hymn but 7  as it is the compilation of what are known as the “O Antiphons”.

A bit of musical terminology first. An antiphon is a response (The Greek means “other voice”) usually to a psalm reading. Think of it this way: instead of quoting a bit of scripture and saying ‘Can I have an Amen?!” You’re reading a bit of scripture and saying “Can I have a ANtiphon?!

In the last week of Advent that response–typically not a psalm but to the Magnificat when sung during the evening service of vespers–comes in the form of the “O Antiphons”, so termed because each of these response prayers begins with “O”. There are 7  O Antiphons (8 in the English Sarum Cycle ), and they…

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1. O Savior, rend the heavens wide;
Come down, come down with mighty stride;
Unlock the gates, the doors break down;
Unbar the way to heaven’s crown.

2. O Father, light from heaven send;
As morning dew, O Son, descend.
Drop down, you clouds, the life of spring:
To Jacob’s line rain down the King.

3. O earth, in flow’ring bud be seen;
Clothe hill and dale in garb of green.
Bring forth, O earth, a blossom rare,
Our Savior, sprung from meadow fair.

4. O Fount of hope, how long, how long?
When will You come with comfort strong?
O come, O come, Your throne forego;
Console us in our vale of woe.

5. O Morning Star, O radiant Sun,
When will our hearts behold Your dawn?
O Sun, arise; without Your light
We grope in gloom and dark of night.

6. Sin’s dreadful doom before us lies;
Grim death looms fierce before our eyes.
O come, lead us with mighty hand
From exile to our promised land.

7. There shall we all our praises bring
And sing to You, our Savior King;
There shall we laud You and adore
Forever and forevermore.

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On the Second Sunday in Advent; the time tuns from the end times, the second coming of Christ, to his first coming: the coming of Jesus into the world. From the choir of my favorite cathedral comes one of my favorite Advent hymns, which is–in my world-always sung on the second Sunday in Advent: “On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry”.

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Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers

By: Laurentius Laurentii, 1660-1722
Rejoice, rejoice, believers, And let your lights appear;
The evening is advancing, And darker night is near.
The bridegroom is arising And soon is drawing nigh.
Up, pray and watch and wrestle; At midnight comes the cry.

The watchers on the mountain Proclaim the bridegroom near;
Go forth as He approaches With alleluias clear.
The marriage feast is waiting; The gates wide open stand.
Arise, O heirs of glory; The bridegroom is at hand.

The saints, who here in patience Their cross and sufferings bore,
Shall live and reign forever When sorrow is no more.
Around the throne of glory The Lamb they shall behold;
In triumph cast before Him Their diadems of gold.

Our hope and expectation, O Jesus, now appear;
Arise, O Sun so longed for, Over this benighted sphere.
With hearts and hands uplifted, We plead, O Lord, to see
The day of earth’s redemption That sets Your people free!

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Yes indeed, it is again the Feast of St. Nicholas, one of my favorite lesser festivals, which I generally celebrate by getting up ridiculously early, having long wittering Prussian conversations with myself about gift distribution , and shoot (or crawl as the case sometimes is) about the Metro area with cookies and toys to drop on (not so) random doorsteps (and windshields).  I also break Advent and listen to Christmas music.  And eat chocolate…. And meat.  So there.

Other people seem to enjoy it as well. (For more on Nicholas check out the previous posting.)

photo (2)

“Are the coins real or chocolate?” asked the youth. “Chocolate,” said his mother. “Oh, ” he said thoughtfully, “Well, that’s cool too.”

Shoes are fascinating!





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So here it is, almost Reformation Day, and in fact, it is Reformation Day.  This day celebrates the day that Martin Luther dressed up as an Augustinian monk on Halloween and went down to the local bulletin-board—on the door of the church, as it happened—and tacked up a bunch of questions for the guys to consider the next time they got together for beers.  Well, more or less.

In fact, that is not so very different from what happened, though there are a great many party-poopers—who professionally work as historians—that question whether Martin nailed anything to a bulletin board, or anywhere else.  But, to be sure, a number of questions were proposed for academic disputation, and things steamrollered on from that point.

From this you could take any number of lessons, I suppose.  You could observe, piously, that there is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come.  You might say, thoughtfully, that an honest question has tremendous potential to disturb everybody’s peace and quiet.  Or, angrily, that he should have kept his damn mouth shut.

That last was never going to happen, ever.  But for the rest of his life, Luther remained amazed that so much should have happened from such a small beginning, and from such a man as he.  By the side of his deathbed, decades later, was a paper on which he had scratched, “Wir sind bettler, das ist wahr.”  “We are beggars, this is true.”  One of the great proofs of the power of God for Luther was that He had taken the voice of a beggar, and made it loud enough to shake Popes and Emperors.

In the process, he took young man Luther—gaunt, ascetic, burning, driven—and transformed him into fat Doctor Luther—eyes placid, fat now padding those ascetic bones, belly full of beer and home-cooking.  You can see no greater reversal of medieval values than the transformation of the monk Luther, anxious for God’s grace, into Doctor Luther, Katie’s husband, content now to live a simple life within the hands of a gracious God.

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Danse Macabre by Bernt Notke (15th Century)

Really there’s no point writing about Halloween.  The origin of the holiday is covered elsewhere in more detail than you can ever possibly desire.  (Just google it.)The debates within Christianity about whether Halloween should Christians should celebrate Halloween is covered elsewhere in more detail than one can possibly desire. (Ditto with the Google). And pretty much everyone knows how to celebrate Halloween if they are celebrating it ; and how not to if not.

The only thing worth noting about Halloween is its name. Halloween is the  contraction for “All Hallow’s Eve,” which is to say the night before All Hallows/Hallow Mas (Holy Mass) All Saint’s Day.  As the evening before a major festival in the Church, most people prepared their souls by coming to church and making confession, which is why  a young, frustrated professor  chose that date to tack up a notice on the bulletin board of a church near his University.  He figured, if he posted it then and there, a lot of people would read it.

He got that right.

Martin Luther Posting the Ninety-Five Theses


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“But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19

St. Luke

One of the best listening experiences I ever had came from a physician.

Medical guides tell you that when you visit a doctor to compose a list of questions and unroll your concerns up front.  “Take charge!” they trumpet. “You need to communicate to your doctor directly your needs and concerns! Be forceful!” Doubtless this is good advice, but it is a little hard to be forceful when within seven hours you have been jettisoned from the world of the thoughtlessly healthy into the one of testing, surgery, treatment, and a parade of physicians of all sorts, sizes, and temperaments and you are running low on oxygen.

The chief physician assigned to my case was a wonderful man, who would tell me what was going to happen next and then ask if I had any concerns and issues. He was sincere in wanting to answer questions, but I always felt that I did not want to disturb the high priest with my unfocused questions: he might be waiting for a communiqué from God.

One day, though, hours before I was to be released from the hospital at the end of a bit of a rough run, as the chief physician, having consulted Urim and Thummim and pronounced all good, swept out of the room followed by the retinue, one of the doctors stayed behind. He asked again, “Do you have any questions?”  I, being in good patient mode and wanting to get the heck out of the hospital, assured him I was completely up to date and had no concerns. He smiled, came over to the side of the bed, pulled out a chair, sat down and said “You can ask anything, you know.“ and then sat there in smiling silence, waiting.

In my mind St. Luke is a blond, blue-eyed Hungarian.

Of course, St. Luke wasn’t a Hungarian, but he was a good listener. His bedside manner must have been fantastic.  A Greek (possibly Greco-Syrian) born in Antioch in present day Syria, Luke was an early convert to Christianity. Some traditions hold that Luke was among the seventy sent out by Christ.  Others say it can’t be so because Luke states upfront in his Gospel that he did not see any of the events told.  He is merely relating them.

I rather hope the latter position is the accurate one, because while Luke’s Gospel would be pretty marvelous if he had been one of the 70, it is even more extraordinary as a complete work of hearsay.  Having not seen the acts he describes in the Gospel, he has to rely upon the stories of others, which meant he had to listen.

One person to whom Luke seems to have listened very closely was Mary, the mother of Jesus.That text you may hear once a year,

St. Luke drawing the Virgin by Rogier van der Weyden

“In those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world was to be taxed…” comes from Luke.  It’s Luke who gets into the nitty-gritty of the nativity and tells all the lovely stories beginning with the Gabriel’s apparition to Zacharias through to twelve year old Jesus teaching in the temple. Most of what we know about the early life of Jesus comes from Luke, whom tradition supposes got it from Mary…because who else was there for those events?

It probably wasn’t easy to get the story from Mary. Sure, mothers like to talk about their children, and I’m sure Mary liked talking about her boy, but Luke writes a telling phrase about Mary: she “kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” That phrase indicates a long practice of introverted contemplation, and information locked into the heart of an introvert is hard information to obtain.  The only person who can get to it is an extremely good listener.

It is also clear from the writings that Luke listened well to another, very different personality.  Luke is often credited as the author of Acts as well (scholarship agrees that the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles were likely written by the same author) and the main character of Acts, Paul, gives Luke several shout-outs in his writing.  Paul had a lot to say.  Luke apparently listened. Sometimes its even harder to listen to the never-ending talker than it is to one who speaks rarely.  That Luke could listen so well to both is to his credit.

I eat Greek! Souzoukaklia and some fixins.

How to celebrate this extraordinary listener? Go listen to somebody.  You don’t even have to cook, just go listen.  But if you want to cook, invite someone over for Souzoukaklia in honor of St. Luke and listen as you eat.

Vital Stats

Name: Luke

Origin: Greek/Syrian

Symbol: a winged ox (Luke’s gospel emphasizes the sacrificial nature of Christ)

Patron: artists (Luke is credited in the East as the first icon writer for writing an icon of the Virgin as the above painting shows he gets credit in the West as well), physicians, surgeons, students, butchers (whether this is because of the winged ox or the origin of surgeons I cannot say)

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