o antiphons

Advent: The O Antiphons


Most of us are quite familiar with the hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel. It is likely the most well-known of the Advent hymns. The basis of this hymn are the O Antiphons, which many of us are not familiar with. The O Antiphons, however, are a beautiful and ancient tradition of the Church. They are prayed/sung the last 7 days of Advent as part of Vespers, of evening prayer. Author Jennifer Gregory Miller:

The Antiphons sum up all the longing for our Savior. They recall the Old Testament waiting for the Messiah, but they also reflect our waiting for His Second Coming at the Parousia. Throughout Advent the readings and prayers have been focused on preparation for Christ’s coming in history and in the future. The “Os” are beautiful antiphons which summarize so many prophecies and typologies in the Old Testament while waiting for the Messiah.

The longing of Advent reaches its peak these last few days. We yearn even more for the coming of the Lord because we can see and taste and hear how close He is. Much like we anticipate the doorbell ringing and the rush of guests on Christmas Day, we listen for the Lord.

The Antiphon for today is “O Adonai:”

O Adonai, et dux domus Israel,
qui Moyse in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O Sacred Lord of ancient Israel,
who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush,
who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain:
Come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.

The O Antiphons mingle the Old Testament promise of God to bring forth a Savior, and the New Testament knowledge that Christ entered the world to save us from our sins. Just as Advent remembers the past (the historical birth of Jesus) and looks to the future (the Second Coming of the Lord), the O Antiphons remind us that we are a people rooted in history and yearning for the time to come.

If you are looking for a prayerful way to finish Advent, why not take a few minutes each day to pray and meditate upon the O Antiphons?

[Throughout the 2016 Advent season, we will be bringing you posts from a variety of writers. Our hope is that each of these will be a meaningful way for you to slow down, pray well, and prepare for the coming of our Lord. Today’s blogger is Elise Hilton, who regularly writes the“Living the Good News” blog for Diocesan Trinity Publications. Hilton is a writer, speaker and former educator, who now serves in the Marketing & Communications Department for Diocesan Trinity Publications. She is also an avid reader, wife, mom of five and passionate about music.]

read bible

5 Reasons Catholics Should Read The Bible

Today is the feast day of St. Jerome, who lived during the first century of the Church. A man of brilliant mind, he lived as a hermit for years, in order to deal with his many sins. However, God needed his intellect and gift of language; thus St. Jerome is credited with translating Scripture into Latin under direction of Pope Damascus.

St. Jerome famously said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” That thought alone should send us all scurrying for our Bibles! So, why should Catholics make regular Scripture reading and study part of their daily lives?

  1. It is the living Word of God. There are many ancient texts in the history of the world. Many of us, in high school and college, read The Iliad, I Ching, and the Tao de Ching. They are all worthy of study, but what sets the Bible apart? It is the living Word of God. It has no equal, and it is as relevant today as it was when Jerome labored over its translation. Further, the Word of God is Christ: In the beginning was the Word,and the Word was with God and the Word was God. (Jn. 1:1 ) Thus, every encounter with Scripture is an encounter with Christ.
  2. Sunday isn’t enough. Indeed, the Mass is full of Scripture. We hear the Word proclaimed from the Old and New Testaments, the Psalms, and the Gospel. We hear the Word sung in our hymns. The prayers at Mass are full of Scriptural quotes and references. And yet … it’s not enough. It’s easy to miss parts of the Word as it’s proclaimed as Mass: we get distracted, the Word is not proclaimed well, we don’t quite hear it. In order to prepare well for Mass, we should “read ahead:” find the readings for Mass and read them prior to Mass. How are they connected? What is God’s message for His people today?
  3. God’s Word keeps us grounded. It is very easy, in the midst of our sloppy, busy, stress-filled days, to lose touch with who we are: God’s children. Taking time to read Scripture every day keeps us grounded, reminds us of who we are. Reading Scripture helps us to recall, every day, that Christ is with us – even in the sloppiness, the busy-ness, the stress.
  4. Scripture reminds us of God’s covenant. God made a promise to our forefathers in faith, the Jews. He told them, “I will be your God, and you will be my people.” Even though the Jews (like us!) did many things that should have destroyed that covenant, God’s promise is eternal. A covenant is unbreakable, because it is God’s truth. Then, with the coming of Christ, we received a new covenant: “This is My Body and this is My Blood. Whoever eats and drinks of it shall have eternal life.” The Bible, from start to finish, is the story of God’s unbreakable promise to us. That’s pretty important.
  5. Reading Scripture helps us to pray better. Every one of us needs to pray better. Prayer is our lifeline to God. Scripture can help us to pray better. We see ourselves reflected in the sorrow, pain and faithfulness of Job. We understand Jonah’s reluctance to do the job God has set before him. We rejoice, laugh, cry and challenge God with the psalmist. We understand the shame of the woman about to be stoned. We tremble with fear, abandoning Christ, just as most of the Apostles did when He most needed them. To enter into God’s word helps us to see, hear, feel and understand basic human responses … and then do better. We rise above our fears, our sorrows, our shame, because we know God is with us. Always. He never abandons us. Scripture is the story of God’s eternal love and faithfulness.

St. Jerome knew all this. He spent his life carefully and faithfully translating God’s word. He did it not because it was yet another text that smart people wanted to read in their own language. No, he understood that Scripture is the living word of God, as relevant to us as it was to the Jews in their many triumphs and struggles, as it was to the earliest Christians during St. Jerome’s life, and now, in a world where we have so much information at our fingertips it would make St. Jerome’s head spin. But there is no website, no book, no podcast, no Facebook post that equals God’s word. Do not be ignorant of this word, lest you be ignorant of Christ.

Liturgy of the Word

The Liturgy Of The Word: God Speaks To Us Through Scripture

Did you know that the Mass is a prayer? It’s not a bunch of prayers stuck together in some sort of mystical way every day, every Sunday. It is the prayer of God’s people, stretching back two millennia. The very earliest Christians gathered to share God’s word and celebrate the Eucharist, as Christ told his Apostles to do at the Last Supper. There are two billion Catholics throughout the world who pray together, entering into the Mystery of the Mass every day.

The Mass consists of two parts: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. We believe that Christ is present in both, but in distinct ways.

The Mass is full of signs and symbols. We pray with our entire bodies, through gestures and postures. We are surrounded by music, images and art. All of these have meaning, and enrich the prayerful atmosphere. However, the Mass is the same whether it is celebrated in the most humble of chapels, on the back of a jeep with soldiers gathered about, or in St. Peter’s Basilica.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) says this about the Liturgy of the Word:

In the Liturgy of the Word, the Church feeds the people of God from the table of his Word …. The Scriptures are the word of God, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In the Scriptures, God speaks to us, leading us along the path to salvation.

The Responsorial Psalm is sung between the readings. The psalm helps us to meditate on the word of God.

The high point of the Liturgy of the Word is the reading of the Gospel. Because the Gospels tell of the life, ministry, and preaching of Christ, it receives several special signs of honor and reverence. The gathered assembly stands to hear the Gospel and it is introduced by an acclamation of praise. Apart from Lent, that acclamation is “Alleluia,” derived from a Hebrew phrase meaning “Praise the Lord!” A deacon (or, if no deacon is present, a priest) proclaims the Gospel.

Either a deacon or priest may give the homily, which is meant to be a reflection on the Word of God that was just proclaimed, and should educate and edify the congregation.

Following the homily, there should be a short period of silence for reflection. Then the Nicene Creed is proclaimed (or in some circumstances, the Apostles’ Creed). This is the declaration of our faith and beliefs as Christians, both as individuals and a community.

The Liturgy of the Word concludes with the Prayer of the Faithful. These prayers, while unique for every congregation, are meant to follow a rubric: prayers for the Universal church, for public matters and global concerns, for those afflicted or burdened, the local community and for the dead.

On Wednesday, we will look at the Liturgy of the Eucharist.


The Bible: A World Of Faith In One Book

The Bible, even though we tend to refer to it as “a book,” is really a library of books. And like any library there are different kinds of books which need to be understood in different ways.

First, it’s good to know that not all Bibles are created equal. The bishops of the United States have a list of approved Bible versions and translations. You can find that list here.

Second, you may notice that the Catholic Bible differs slightly from the Bible your Protestant friends use. Our Bible actually has more books! The reason for this is that those books (referred to as the Apocrypha), were left out of the King James’ version of the Bible in the 1800s as many Protestant scholars felt they were unimportant and/or uninspired. Those books are Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, I and II Maccabees – plus sections of Esther and Daniel.

Catholics believe that humans wrote the Bible, but all of it is inspired by God. God did not magically move the hand of those who wrote the Bible, nor did He appear to Biblical writers and dictate to them what should be written. Instead, we believe that God guided the hearts, minds and souls of those who wrote this holy book.

Our Bible is separated into two large sections: the Old Testament (of the Jewish Scripture) and the New Testament (the Christian Scripture). These two collections of books tell the story of salvation history: how God, since the beginning of time, has loved us and sought to save us from sin and death.

Some books, like Genesis, tell in story form, the beginnings of humanity, and how God chose the Jews to be His people through the establishment of a covenant. Other books, like the Psalms, are poetry and song, meant to be used as praise and worship of God.

The prophets of the Old Testament, like Isaiah, warn the Jewish people away from sin that alienates them from God, but they also foretell of the Savior promised to humanity by God.

The New Testament begins with the four Gospels: the incredible story of Christ. (Please understand: when the word “story” is used, we are not saying this is fictional. It merely means that these parts of the Bible are written in story form, with a beginning, middle and end.) The New Testament also contains the Acts of the Apostles, which tells of the events following Christ’s Resurrection and of the early Church. In addition, the letters of St. Paul and St. Peter (John and Jude as well) reach out to the young Church, instructing them (and us!) in the faith. The final book of the Bible is the book of Revelation, a piece of apocalyptic literature. It tells of the end of time (for Earth, but not for God, as God exists outside of time) using symbols, signs and language that often seem strange and even frightening. However, the real message of the book of Revelation is that God never ceases to be God: He is always in control.

Catholics are blessed; if one reads the daily Mass readings (or better yet, attends daily Mass), one will read or hear proclaimed almost the entire Bible in the three-year cycle the Church has laid out for us. This library of books spans centuries of belief by our ancestors in faith, both Jew and Christian. It is a legacy we must always cherish.