Every traveler has had the experience while still far from home on a cold night. Along the road, we pass a home where light streams forth. A party must be going on, for cars surround the house and people fill it. We feel a certain pang in passing, because we long especially at that time for warmth, friendship, festivity. We look forward with heightened anticipation toward our own destinations, tables and families at the end of the journey.
The “O Antiphons” are ancient, liturgical prayers for the last days of the Advent season, December 17-24. Drawn from Scripture, they evoke deep yearnings for a home of eternal peace, a person we can barely imagine. Ask most people what they long for at this season of the year and they are quick to reply, “More time. More money. Great gifts for self and others. Feasting, beauty, rest.” All are good goals, but somewhat shallow. Most folks could easily survive Christmas with one less gift, one less glass of eggnog. The quick answer fails to tap the deeper longings, to name a happiness beyond trinkets, to be loved in a way for which we ache at a level beyond words.
The “O Antiphons” call from this level, filled with a human longing that transcends countries and centuries. In these ancient prayers lie seeds that might flower in new ways, adapted to contemporary realities.
We rejoice in he-who-is-to-come not only because of his greatness, but because he makes us great, not only because he is the light of the world, but because he tells us, “You are the light of the world.” Surrounded by anxieties, we shout with confidence that Christ is King—now and always, here and everywhere, defying the doomsayers.
Like any other prayers, these “O” calls reaching to the divine can be placed in new contexts, chanted not only in monastic choirs, sung not only in the popular hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” but also in our hearts.
# KathyCoffey, American Catholic
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