Friday, December 16, 2011

O Sapientia (December 16)

The singing of the Great "O" Antiphons begins tonight in the Anglican world; for the next 8 evenings, these ancient texts will be said or sung as the antiphon upon Magnificat at Vespers. (Roman Catholics begin on December 17; they use one fewer antiphon. The last is sung, in each church, on the 23rd, "Christmas Eve Eve.") The first antiphon is O Sapientia ("O Wisdom"); the English translation - in the old language - is below the video.

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.
Below is a Latin version of the Magnificat itself, if you're inclined to listen to or sing it:

That 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."

The rubrics for Sapientia-tide (these next 8 days) change, according to; the antiphons at Lauds and Vespers are proper to this period.  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".

The texts for the Great "O"s are taken largely from the Prophets and from the Wisdom literature, and become mystical  proclamations, made daily during those eight days, of the imminent coming of Christ "in great humility."  The antiphons themselves are over a thousand years old.

The text of O Sapientia is drawn in great part from Sirach 24
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 ad- mired 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.
 15 And so was I established in Sion, and in the holy city likewise I rested, and my power was in Jerusalem.
 16 And I took root in an honourable people, and in the portion of mg God his inheritance, and my abode is in the full assembly of saints.
 17 I was exalted like a cedar in Libanus, and as a cypress tree on mount Sion.
 18 I was exalted like a palm tree in Cades, and as a rose plant in Jericho:
 19 As a fair olive tree in the plains, and as a plane tree by the water in the streets, was I exalted.
 20 I gave a sweet smell like cinnamon. and aromatical balm: I yielded a sweet odour like the best myrrh:
 21 And I perfumed my dwelling as storax, and galbanum, and onyx, and aloes, and as the frankincense not cut, and my odour is as the purest balm.
 22 I have stretched out my branches as the turpentine tree, and my branches are of honour and grace.
 23 As the vine I have brought forth a pleasant odour: and my flowers are the fruit of honour and riches.
 24 I am the mother of fair love, and of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope.
 25 In me is all grace of the way and of the truth, in me is all hope of life and of virtue.
 26 Come over to me, all ye that desire me, and be filled with my fruits.
 27 For my spirit is sweet above honey, and my inheritance above honey and the honeycomb.
 28 My memory is unto everlasting generations.
 29 They that eat me, shall yet hunger: and they that drink me, shall yet thirst.
 30 He that hearkeneth to me, shall not be confounded: and they that work by me, shall not sin.
 31 They that explain me shall have life everlasting.
 32 All these things are the book of life, and the covenant of the most High, and the knowledge of truth.
 33 Moses commanded a law in the precepts of justices, and an inheritance to the house of Jacob, and the promises to Israel.
 34 He appointed to David his servant to raise up of him a most mighty king, and sitting on the throne of glory for ever.
 35 Who filleth up wisdom as the Phison, and as the Tigris in the days of the new fruits.
 36 Who maketh understanding to abound as the Euphrates, who multiplieth it as the Jordan in the time of harvest.
 37 Who sendeth knowledge as the light, and riseth up as Gehon in the time of the vintage.
 38 Who first hath perfect knowledge of her, and a weaker shall not search her out.
 39 For her thoughts are more vast than the sea, and her counsels more deep than the great ocean.
 40 I, wisdom, have poured out rivers.
 41 I, like a brook out of a river of a mighty water; I, like a channel of a river. and like an aqueduct, came out of paradise.
 42 I said: I will water my garden of plants, and I will water abundantly the fruits of my meadow.
 43 And behold my brook became a great river, and my river came near to a sea:
 44 For I make doctrine to shine forth to all as the morning light, and I will declare it afar off.
 45 I will penetrate to all the lower parts of the earth, and will behold all that sleep, and will enlighten all that hope in the Lord.
 46 I will yet pour out doctrine as prophecy, and will leave it to them that seek wisdom, and will not cease to instruct their offspring even to the holy age.
 47 See ye that I have not laboured for myself only, but for all that seek out the truth.

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