Tuesday, December 20, 2011

O Oriens (December 20)

The Great "O" Antiphon O Oriens ("O Dayspring") is sung tonight as the Antiphon upon Magnificat.

O Day-Spring, Brightness of the Light everlasting, and Sun of righteousness: Come and enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Below is a Latin version of the Magnificat itself.

The text comes from Luke 1:
"My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever."
If you'd like to pray the whole office of Vespers, you can do it at St. Bede's Breviary; choose "Amplified Prayer Book" under "Style" to get the "O's".

Oriens is Latin for "East" - and also refers to "the Morning Star" (either Venus, or perhaps the sun). The text most likely comes from Revelation 22:16, part of the "epilogue" of the book and one of the very last verses in the Bible:

12 “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

14 “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.

16 “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”

17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.

18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll. 19 And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll.

20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”

Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.

21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.

More about the Great "O" Antiphons, from the website "The Hymns and Carols of Christmas":
The antiphons date back at least to the reign of Charlemagne (771-814), and the 439 lines of the English poem Christ, by Cynewulf (c. 800), are described as a loose translation and elaboration of the Antiphons.  One source stated that Boethius (c. 480-524) made a slight reference to them, thereby suggesting their presence at that time.  Julian reports that two 11th century copies can be found in manuscripts in the British Museum and the Bodleian. The usage of the "O Antiphons" was so prevalent in monasteries that the phrases, "Keep your O" and "The Great O Antiphons" were common parlance.

At least two — and up to five — additional verses were later added to the original seven.   However, it is clear that these seven were designed as a group, since their initial letters (ignoring the 'O' that precedes each line) spell out the reverse acrostic 'SARCORE' — 'ero cras', that is, "I shall be [with you] tomorrow."

According to some sources, by the 12th or 13th century, but no later than the eighteenth century, five of the verses had been put together to form the verses of a single hymn, with the refrain "Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel nascetur pro te, Israel" ("Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel; Shall come to thee, O Israel") (there was no refrain in the original Latin chant). The earliest known metrical form of the "O" Antiphons was a Latin version in an Appendix of Psalteriolum Cantionum Catholicarum, (Cologne, 1710, from the Tridentine rite).

In 1851, it was translated by and published in Rev. John Mason Neale’s Medieval Hymns. The original title was "Draw nigh, draw nigh! Immanuel." It was revised and published in 1854 in Neale and Thomas Helmore’s second edition of Hymnal Noted with the more familiar "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." "Emmanuel" (or "Immanuel") is the name of the Messiah as prophesied by the Old Testament prophet, Isaiah (see Isaiah 7:14, quoted in Matthew 1:23). There have been numerous other translations, notably by Thomas Alexander Lacey and Henry Sloane Coffin.

English prose translations are by Cardinal John Henry Newman from Tracts for the Times, No. 75 (Vol.3), pp. 183, 206-207, as quoted by Alfred S. Cook, The Christ Of Cynewulf, pp. 71-72. "Alternate Prose Translations" are also provided; translator unknown.

Scriptural citations from Fr. William Saunders, "What Are the ’O Antiphons’?" (and also under the title "A Seven-Fold Announcement"), and Cook, The Christ of Cynewulf, pp. 72-114.

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