Tag Archives: o Antiphons

O Emmanuel (O God with us) Dec 23rd.

Isaiah went to bad king Ahaz and said “Ask the Lord for a sign.”

In a fit of prentended humility Ahaz said “oooh I couldn’t.”

So Isaiah said, “Well you’re getting a sign anyway. Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and he will be called emmanual, God with us.” (Is 7:14)

Hezekiah was born and became king of Judah. At that time it seems God was calling a few men to be prophets. Isaiah and Micah in Judah and Amos and Hosea in Israel. Hosea of course was a prophet of Israel in Babylonian captivity.

Just before these events Jonah had been spit up on the shores of Syria where he had to go and prophesy to the people of Nineveh, a potential enemy of Israel, They repented and the Lord was with them.

Events were moving hard and fast in that little piece of history.  In the Pseudepigraphia we hear the story of how Hezekiah calls his infant son Manessah to his side as he dies, but even as he is to give the child a blessing the son of Isaiah Josab prophesied that Manessah would worship a demon instead of God and undo all the good that Hezekiah had worked. The faith of the people would be split apart. In horror and grief Hezekiah considers having his little son killed, but is warned against this by Isaiah even though he has forseen his own terrible martyrdom at the hands of Mannessah. Isaiah was sawn in half.

There is an addition showing the Christians saw in this the symbolism of the terrible martyrdom the Church suffered under her own Manessah in Nero (both types of antiChrist).

In the end poor Manessah, having sacrificed his own sons to Molech the child consuming burning idol, repents. Psalm 151 is one of those not quite canonical but much loved prayers of repentence. For Manessah to have come home after having run so far gives hope for us all.

The martyrdom and Ascension of Isaiah

The Holy Father, commenting on today’s Mass readings asks us to behave like Mary and Elizabeth:

Let us imitate Mary in the Christmas season, visiting those who are experiencing hardship, especially the sick, the imprisoned, the elderly and children. Let us laso imitate Elizabeth, who welcomes guests like God Himself: without desiring the Lord we will never know Him, without waiting for Him we will never meet Him, without seeking will never find Him

We’ve just come home from a lovely visit with friends who are relaxed and caring and  gave us a beautiful organic lamb dinner. They had received the lamb from the farmer as a gift and took that gift and shared it with us.

I am not that well today and very twitchy and jerky. But with them it didn’t matter. I could twitch, jerk and tip over and not have to feel embarressed. I think many of us are more blessed with friends than we sometimes realise or appreciate.  If you have friends as good as this don’t forget to thank God for them 🙂

O Rex Gentium (O King of Nations) Dec 22nd

When Jesus stood before Pilate, He was asked, “Are you a king?” and from the conversation that followed Pilate the gentile and his gentile wife St. Claudia Procla saw that He was indeed a king.

The apostles had some understanding that Jesus, a son of David was a king by right but they were stuck in the idea that He would take a political stand against Rome and somehow bring all Israel back together. When Jesus went out to do His mission there was only Judea, the land of Judah and Benjamin with the Levite priesthood. Sometimes other tribes were noted such as Anna in the Temple who was from the tribe of Ashur. But in saving all Israel Jesus wasn’t going to pick out Israelites alone. He was calling all the nations, the gentiles too now, into the new Israel of the new Covenant. Israel was the first born son, the oldest brother of us all, but the gentiles were God’s children too.

O Oriens (O Dayspring) Dec 21st

The Light of Christ dawns and the people who have walked in darkness and the shadow of death have seen a great Light (Prayer of Zecharius. The Benedictus Luke 1:68 to 74).

The great fire of God’s Love will burn up the stubble; and yes that will include yours and mine and it will hurt. We need to get rid of that stubble to be as gold. Those who do evil will be burned up. When Christ comes as the Daystar, He comes to renew the face of the earth. He is the Light in the darkness that cannot be overcome.

This is the Light we can reach for to get us out of our self imposed darkness. It’s still a choice of course and as no one is forced to stand in the light. But the light is mercy. If we refuse mercy we will face justice. Thank God there’s mercy. Are we not blessed?

From Divine Office today:

Thus say the Lord, your remdeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I, the Lord your God, teach you what is good for you. I lead you on the way that you must go.

O Radix Jesse (Dec 19th)

God had promised King David son of the shepherd Jesse of the tribe of Judah that his throne would last forever. But the sins of Solomon son of David caused Israel to be split (a schism) with ten tribes to the north continuing as Israel with their own kings and queen mothers and Judah in the south made up of Judah and Benjamin with some Levites for the priesthood.

Isaiah began his prophesying in the Reign of King Uzziah of Judah. He continued through the reign of Jotham and then came Ahaz who was just dreadful as kings went but he was to have a son.

Isaiah went to King Ahaz and said “Ask for a sign.”

Ahaz in a pretence at suddenly being holy said he couldn’t possibly ask God for a sign. He may very well have been too scared to hear what that sign would be. Isaiah said “Well God says you are getting a sign anyway.” I am sure his tone was a little snarky. “Behold,” said Isaiah as the Spirit filled him with what to say, “A maiden shall conceive and bear a son and he shall be called Emmanuel, God with us.”

Ahaz’ wife gives birth to Hezekiah meaning something like “take courage”. She saved this son from the fires of Molech the god who had consumed her other child at the behest of Ahaz. Sacrificing babies for wealth and power is an age old vileness and Molech has turned up in many forms but always with the same results; lots of dead babies.

In many ways Ahaz could be considered a type of Antichrist. He sets up a pagan altar in the Temple, desecrating it with sacrifices to another god. Surely this was an abomination.

When Hezekiah becomes king he tries to put things right. Through a renewal of the Passover he tried to bring all Israel together at least spiritually. But when Hezekiah died his son Manasseh went back to the bad old ways of worshipping like the pagans and child sacrifice.

Jesus uses the word Gehenna, the place of fire where Ahaz and Manasseh had made their children pass through fire – that is sacrificed their children for wealth and power; as a word for hell.  Gehenna the place of fire is hell because the Molech gods were demons. (Ps 151 the prayer of Manasseh gives some hope that he repented in the end).

Isaiah’s prophecy was to be more fully fulfilled when a virgin conceived and bore a son, a branch from the root of Jesse. Jesus is God With Us and He is of the family of David, the tribe of Judah and through him all Israel is saved.

O Rex Gentium – compared to wannabe kings of the world. O Emmanuel, God with us!

I know the Welsh don’t like it, but there is something deeply profound in that line from a A Man For All Seasons when St. Thomas More quotes Scripture at the betrayer Richard Rich saying “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and to lose his soul….but for Wales?”

The cross is a stumbling block to those who want to be kings of the world – or even just Wales. Jesus  as King of the Jews poured every last drop of Himself out for all of us, having washed the feet of the apostles only a few hours earlier.  Real kings sacrifice for others, they don’t sacrifice others for themselves.

Over Christmas we remember good King Wenceslas who ruled with kindness and took care of the poor. The Church has quite a few royal saints who worked hard for the poor and sacrificed for the people they served as King or Queen.

I think this is a good rule of thumb when looking for good religious leaders too. A king, prince, relgious leader who has privalege and doesn’t use it for others, isn’t much of a leader. We do the same in the Church in how we judge our popes. The ones who stood firm for Christ and followed Him closely are saints – and we are blessed to have a lot of saintly and canonised popes; but can also learn from the popes who did things badly. One of the things we learn is that no matter how bad a pope got the Holy Spirit did not allow them to change the teachings of Christ.

There is the story of a pope (I can’t remember which one, but I’m sure many of you know about this) who had written something that would contradict the Church and he was firmly set to promulgate it. On the night before he was to promulgate this document he died.  God protects His Church.

O Emmanuel – God with us. This is from the prophecy Isaiah gave to Ahab who had tried to chicken out of hearing what God had to say. Isaiah said that Ahaz was going to hear what God had to say anyway and made the prophecy  that a virgin shall conceive bear a son and he will be called wonderful, councilor prince of peace and God With Us.

As with many prophecies it has been considered that there was a dual fulfilmet of Isaiah’s words in that Ahaz’s young wife Abijah soon delivered a son whom they named Hezekiah meaning God is Strength.

Ahaz had been a pretty dreadful king and led Israel into the darkness. But Hezekiah was seen as a great kind. He cleaned out the awful pagan gods and brought Israel back under the wing of God. But the sins of the people left a mark and soon Hezekiah found himself facing Sennechorib who rules Assyria after the death of Sargon. Hezekiah had looked to Egypt for help, but none came.

O Oriens – son/sun of justice

When God made the sun I am sure He had in mind that it would be a symbol of the Incarnate Light of the World. I think He was probably well aware of how the moon as it reflects that light into a dark world would symbolise the Mother and Church.

The old pagans who were wiser in many ways that we give them credit, understood the symbols of sun and moon and made a god and godess around them, but they lacked the full truth of how the heavenly objects were types to show us the way to the reality of heavenly persons. We should not be too hard on them, for there were those who through reason and without the benifit of revelation understood something of the nature of a god of the sun or sun-god or even a son-god.

Both Jesus and Mary have been called “morning star” and so has Satan. How can God and Satan have the same symbol?  It does make me a bit uncomfortable at times. But then it’s something that should tell us about what Satan hoped for himself. He, like his friends, wants all the power and glory of God, but without having to do all the sacrificing and love that goes with it.

Isaiah’s words about how the king of Babylon would fall includes calling him the Day Star, Son of the Morning (in Latin Lucifer and in Hebrew Helel). This passage (ch 14) has been considered a prophesy about Satan but also his best minion, the Antichrist.  The King of Babylon was a type of Antichrist and tried to hold a title that was really for God and His Bride.

It is noted at times that the star of the morning is often considered to be the planet Venus. The goddess in her many forms is an Antimarian figure. The corruption of the Queen mothers (gebirah) in Israel’s royal family was also a type of antimarian.

The fall of Satan was bigger than the fall of the other devils because Satan had been one of the brightest angels. The Light Bearer, Star of the Morning – and he fell into darkness.

The darkest gods in the pagan pantheon are opposites of God as He really is. Just as God is Adonai, so the father god of the Canaanites was Ba’al a ruthless father god. Just as Christ is the King of Kings, so many kings arose trying to grasp the Godhead for themselves and fell int he process. (Antiochas Epiphanes has to be the major type of Antichrist, more so even than Solomon after his moral fall).

Christ and His Mother really are the Morning Star,  He is the Son who shines brightly with His own Light as the sun shines at morning. She is the star like Venus who shines her light which is a reflection of His Light.

Just as the sun gives light and life to the world, so the Son gives Light and life to all of us.

O Radix Jesse and the faith of Herod

O Radix Jesse, the promise of God that a shoot would arise out of Jesse and as the prayer goes, it will cause all kings to be silenced.

When we hear the Christmas story we will hear of the Magi or kings who travelled to Jerusalem following a star, that somehow they almost seem to have expected. They went to Jerusalem and asked King Herod where the new King of the Jews could be found. How could they have worked all that out from a star?

Those of you who have used my lessons will know about the prophecy of Balaam and how it is thought this prophecy was kept by the people of Mesopotamia so that when the Star appeared, the Magi knew what it might mean.

Herod did not simply dismiss the Magi. He called for those in the Temple to come and explain the Scriptures to him, to see if these gentiles had it right, and the Temple staff said yes they did and the child was to be born in Bethlehem.

Herod then said, “Don’t be daft, it’s all a fairy tale…” er no, he didn’t. He sent the Magi to find the baby and then come and tell him. Perhaps at this point he was hedging. Maybe there was a king born, maybe there wasn’t. But from what the Scriptures said, this was no ordinary king- this was the promised Messiah. So all those temple people would be rushing off to Bethlehem to see the baby too right?

Apparently not. They just went back to the temple and put away the scrolls as though what they had just read, meant nothing. I can’t help wondering how much of their disinterest in the possibility of the Messiah was rooted in the fact that Herod built the temple and the money, power and prestige they had there, came not from God (as far as they were concerned) but from Herod.

Then, when the Magi did not return, Herod had all the toddler and baby boys murdered in a mass slaughter that is just foul. Why bother? I can’t help thinking he did it because he believed; I think Herod believed that the Messiah, the King of the Jews the promised shoot from the stump of Jesse really had been born and it terrified him.

For the Magi, the curses Balaam had promised to pour on Israel had become a blessing not just for Israel but for all the nations, but for Herod, the curse was real as he rejected the blessing.

God said to Israel, “See a place before you life and death, choose life therefore…”

O Adonai and if not Adonai then ba’al.

Adonai is a word that doesn’t just mean “lord” but “beloved husband”. It is the word used for God, our Beloved Bridegroom as against the word for a master-husband of a slave-wife (concubine) which was ba’al.  You may remember that Ba’al was the name or title of one of the dark gods of Canaan and it’s surrounding tribes.

We know from Scripture that Israel frequently found it difficult to discern between their Adonai and Ba’al and fell into worshipping Ba’al instead of the True Adonai, thus become slaves to their god(s) and subject to other nations.

In our journey towards God we need guides. Israel had Moses and the Prophets and the Church has the Apostles, their spiritual descendents and the saints. One of the reasons Jesus set up the Church the way He did – in fact it was probably the primary reason – was to keep us on the straight and narrow, so that we worshipped the true God, the true Bridegroom, Adonai, as He is and should be worshipped, and didn’t get cheated and tricked into becoming slaves ofthe Ba’als. We see in Scripture that Satan can quote Scripture pretty well and we are warned that he can appear as an angel of light. So we must be cautious.

We have celebrated the feast of St Juan Diego (dec 9th) and Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec 12th) and we know from this story that the Bishop was very cautious about what Juan Diego told him and that he asked for a sign. Some may say this showed a lack of faith in the bishop, but it didn’t. It showed the bishop was cautious and knew that just as Juan Diego could have seen Our Lady, he could have seen something evil, or nothing at all. Caution is wise in these cases.

On Dec 14th we celebrated the feast of St. John of the Cross, a great friend and support for St. Teresa of Avila and St John of Avila. These great saints were at work for Christ at the same time as St Ignatius of Loyola. God was very busy sending out extraordinary men and women to save souls in those turbulent times.

But the devil wasn’t sitting back on his tail either. He wanted to undo as much of God’s work as possible. Nothing new there.

At that time a new “saint” arose. She appeared to be a great mystic with many supernatural abilities and seemed very holy. Her astonishing abilities made her the darling of the rich and famous, even to Queen Isabella herself.

Sr. Magdalena of the Cross was allowed free rein for her spiritual events, even when some serious problems should have provided due warning that not all was well. I am not quite sure how she managed to be so well known as a saint without anyone insisting she receive proper spiritual direction, but it happened. God is merciful (thankfully) and had one of His real saints finally see her and soon she was unmasked and the poor woman was being given a serious of exorcisms, ridding her of at least two demons.

She was finally free of her possession and then tried before the Inquisition, who seeing she was repentant and anyway, it had not been all her own doing, she received a sentence that allowed her to return to religious life, this time quietly and in genuine service to God. She became like the St Mary Magdalene for whom she had been named, grateful that Jesus had released her from the devils who had taken such hold of her.

The Church authority is there to help prevent us falling into error (and we see from the rather sad story of Sr. Magdalene what happens when those in authority are slow to act). The damage her possession did to the work of St Teresa of Avila could have been much worse than it was, but I can’t help thinking that the poor woman could have been helped a lot earlier if those in authority had acted promptly rather than allowing the glamour of powerful people to hobble their Christ ordained mission.

In the end, of course, the devil failed. The great work of  saints Teresa both the Johns and Ignatius burned and bloomed as they worshipped Adonai and not ba’al.

Of course the stories of far too many people both then and now is not that they get possessed by Satan, but that they are possessed by themselves. They worship the image they see in the mirror and sacrifice others to the unholy trinity of me-myself-I, while at the same time kidding themselves they are Christians.

So side step those Ba’als and sing O Adonai.

Advent preparation; O Sapientia and considering spiritual pride.

The first O Antiphon on the eight day count down to Christmas is O Sapientia that is O Wisdom.  Part of the getting ready and sorting out is to be sure we are obeying Christ’s insistence that we seek first the Kingdom. If we are not doing that, we are not going to find it. If we are seeking it, that is wise, if we aren’t that is foolish. And if we think we’ve found it and so don’t need to do any more we will find our lamps have no oil when the Bridegroom approaches and that is very very foolish.

Every day we need to pray for God to assist us to find Him “Oh God come to my aid, Oh Lord make haste to help me!” is said every day in Divine Office. This is accepting that we can’t pray or meditate on Scripture without His help. He gives wisdom and we need to keep asking for it.

Any journey will have it’s dangers. There are all sorts of wrong turns we can take and nasty surprises that might hurt us or delay us. But we must not lose sight of the fact that Jesus calls us to seek first the Kingdom. Advent is a great way to remind us which in direction we should be moving and which star we should be following.

One thing we should certainly not be following is our feelings. How it feels is hardly ever how it is. Wasn’t it Jeremiah who warned against following our hearts?

Humility is the most difficult virtue to cultivate. It is too easy to tell Christ where we would like Him to walk with us, as we go, rather than agree to walk with Him wherever He goes. I know it is much easier to spot lack of humility and down right pride in other people, than in ourselves, but perhaps we can use this tendency as a way to examine our own consciences.

I listen to Catholic Answers and as I’ve had so much wrapping, sorting, cooking and just plain catching my breath, to do recently, I’ve listened to more than usual. I’ve also listened to more of the lectures from the Institute of Catholic Culture which I highly recommend. Anyway, something has hit me as I listened and it is this; the great lectures that the ICC offer have a sort of quiet, gentle and joyful holiness to most of them. (I have come across a couple of truly grating lecturers who give the wrong impression but the rest are wonderful). On Catholic Answers the guests and Mr Coffin the anchor always seem gentle, polite and very honest. But sometimes those who phone in can come across as astonishingly proud and ignorant at the same time. Almost invariably with these callers the question comes back to them – how it feels for “me”. The more polite caller will become a bit smarmy and slippery insisting that the way they “feel” is the only judge of what is right.

Seeking wisdom is tough, and falling into the pit of spiritual pride is too easy, but if we spend every day admitting we need wisdom and begging God to show us His wisdom we might just side step the pit.

O Sapientia!


First day of the O Antiphons today.

Catholic Culture has some good resourses including an O Antiphon House like an advent calender.  And then there’s the chance to practice “O Come o come Emmanuel” or Veni Veni Emmanual.

Go HERE to click on the youtube vid and hear the beautiful chant for today.