Thursday, December 12, 2019

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
What does this bring to mind?

A song, perhaps?
Can you recall some of the words?  
Maybe a melody?
Does singing the melody help you recall more words?
Try it.

The “Liturgical Notes” for this week and next week center around the “O” Antiphons; the text of the Hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”  This week’s note focuses on the text and musical settings. Next week will speak to the place of the “O” Antiphons in the Church’s Advent prayer.

The following definition provides a good starting point:

The Roman Church has been singing the "O" Antiphons since at least the eighth century. They are the antiphons that accompany the Magnificat canticle of Evening Prayer from December 17-23. They are a magnificent theology that uses ancient biblical imagery drawn from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming Christ as the fulfillment not only of Old Testament hopes, but present ones as well. Their repeated use of the imperative "Come!" embodies the longing of all for the Divine Messiah.

                  United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

The “O” Antiphons are based on the writings of the prophets like Isaiah, whom we hear proclaimed this Advent.  The antiphons ARE the “magnificent theology” which describe the attributes of God the Messiah will embody. The first two reflect God’s Divinity taking on human form:

  • Emmanuel - literally “God with us” or the Divine God in human form
  • Wisdom - an attribute connected to God’s Holy Spirit

As Christians, we believe that the baby born of Mary is the Messiah for whom our Jewish brothers and sisters longed.  For almost 2000 years (since Christ’s Ascension to be exact) Christians have longed for His return. This is the primary preparation of Advent.

The text of the “O” Antiphons permeates our advent prayer and music.

We will sing some of it in the acclamation occuring where the Gloria is normally sung.  (The gloria is omitted during Advent and Lent.). We will sing all of it at offertory using a tune written by Steve Angrisano (Emmanuel #56.)

You will hear and sing the traditional chant melody in the Missa Emmanuel; a mass setting composed by Richard Proulx.  Listen closely as the leader of song intones: “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord.”

Wishing you a blessed Advent as I am blessed to be in ministry with you at St. Mary’s.


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