Sunday, December 16, 2007

O Sapientia

Starting tonight, Anglican monastics, and others, will sing the Great "O" Antiphons as the antiphons upon the Magnificat at Vespers, for a period of eight days. (Roman Catholics start one day later and use only 7 of the Antiphons.) These antiphons are quite ancient - from earlier than the 9th Century, it's reckoned. They were composed of snippets of Scripture (from various sources, most prominently Isaiah) that, in keeping with the Advent themes of hopeful longing and expectation, become lovely poetic descriptions of hope for the Messiah, and pointers to the Incarnation. See Derek's piece at Episcopal Cafe for a detailed discussion of these antiphons and their place in English history. This is also an excellent reference page, one that includes Biblical sources for the texts.

The first antiphon is "O Sapientia" - "O Wisdom":
O Wisdom, which camest out of the mouth of the most High, and reachest from one end to another, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.

Here is the Latin version sung by Blackfriars, "the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars in Oxford," sounding as it would at Vespers:

Other mp3 files of this antiphon are here from WDTPRS (a solo version), and here from Magdalen College. (For something very different, have a listen to a sample of Arvo Pärt's version, O Weisheit, sung in German by the Paul Hillier ensemble.)

Here is an English-language chant score:

I must disagree, however, with the references cited at the link above for this particular antiphon; the citations from Isaiah really are not sources for the images used and ideas expressed here. But Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 24 is:
1 Wisdom shall praise her own self, and shall be honoured in God, and shall glory in the midst of her people,
2 And shall open her mouth in the churches of the most High, and shall glorify herself in the sight of his power,
3 And in the midst of her own people she shall be exalted, and shall be admired in the holy assembly.
4 And in the multitude of the elect she shall have praise, and among the blessed she shall be blessed, saying:
5 I came out of the mouth of the most High, the firstborn before all creatures:

6 I made that in the heavens there should rise light that never faileth, and as a cloud I covered all the earth:
7 I dwelt in the highest places, and my throne is in a pillar of a cloud.
8 I alone have compassed the circuit of heaven, and have penetrated into the bottom of the deep, and have walked in the waves of the sea,
9 And have stood in all the earth: and in every people,
10 And in every nation I have had the chief rule:

11 And by my power I have trodden under my feet the hearts of all the high and low: and in all these I sought rest, and I shall abide in the inheritance of the Lord.
12 Then the creator of all things commanded, and said to me: and he that made me, rested in my tabernacle,
13 And he said to me: Let thy dwelling be in Jacob, and thy inheritance in Israel, and take root in my elect.
14 From the beginning, and before the world, was I created, and unto the world to come I shall not cease to be, and in the holy dwelling place I have ministered before him.


andrea said...

Thank you for posting all of this! I would like to download the chants of the Great O antiphons would you direct me to a site where I can get those?

andrea said...

Thanks for posting all of this. I would like to download clips of the O antiphon chants, would you direct me a site where I can do that?

andrea said...

oops sorry for posting 2!

bls said...

Well, you can find all of these in mp3 form here.

Is that what you meant?


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