O Sapientia

Source: District of Asia

The O Antiphons

The Seven O Antiphons for the week before the vigil of Christmas contains the pith of the Advent liturgy.  They address Christ directly under one or other of His scriptural names.  In these brief notes, I shall explain mainly their biblical background.  They were strung together from biblical phrases in the 8th or 9th century.  Liturgical gems attached to the Magnificat to honour the Mother of the Messiah, they show our longings for His coming grow more intensely as we draw nearer the feast.  The first letters of the antiphons of inverse order form the acrostic ERO CRAS, I shall be (with you) tomorrow.

O Sapientia.  Dec. 17. O Wisdom, you came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and reaching from beginning to end You ordered all things mightily and sweetly.  Come, and teach us the way of prudence.

In the historical and prophetical books and in the early sapiential books of the Old Testament as well, Wisdom is generally spoken of only with reference to human practical knowledge, fruit from experience.  Occasionally it also stands for a sense of moderation or the pursuit of prudence, vigilance, self-possession.  In the later sapiential books Wisdom takes on a more religious and moral character; is the ‘fear of the Lord’, the pursuit of justice, the sense of submission to the divine will; or, filial love and service of God (Ecclus. 24, 11-23).  God alone possesses all wisdom (Is. 31, 2; Dan. 2, 20-23; Prov. 21, 30; etc.).  His Wisdom is manifested especially in His creative Word and in Israel’s Law.  As God’s Wisdom issuing from the mouth of the Most High (Ecclus. 24, 5ff), “Wisdom radiates the eternal light; she is a spotless mirror of God’s power, the image of His goodness….she makes everything new…. Reaching mightily from one end of the earth to the other she governs all things well” (Wisdom 7, 25-8, 1). In the Old Testament this mysterious being is probably not more than a poetical personification.

For St. John (1, 1-3) the divine Wisdom is the divine Word incarnate is Jesus Christ.  Issuing from God, making Himself one of us, Jesus Christ has come down in our midst to reveal the Wisdom and the Love of the Father (John 1, 18; cf. Ephes. 1, 4-14) and to teach the way of wisdom “that we may say farewell to foolishness, learn to live, and advance in the way of understanding.”