Have you ever heard of the “O Antiphons”? There are seven of them, and each one corresponds to one of the last seven days of the Advent Season. Catholics and some Protestant denominations recite them before praying the Magnificat at Vespers. They are called “O Antiphons” because each one uses the interjection “O” before referring to the Messiah under one of His attributes mentioned in Isaiah. For the final seven days of Advent, I will be posting on each of these O Antiphons, starting with the one we will pray this evening. Below is the first post.
O Antiphon 1
“Wisdom, O holy Word of God,
You govern all creation with your strong, yet tender care.
Come and show your people the way to salvation.”
In today’s O Antiphon, the “Wisdom” and the “Word” of God are ways of referring to the Son of God. In reciting the antiphon, we ask the Word of God to show us the way to salvation. How are we Christians able to receive this guidance toward salvation from the Word of God? One answer is that Jesus provides it via the Holy Spirit. But what does it actually mean in practice to follow that guidance? It’s not like each of us has a personally assigned burning bush from which to hear it. How do we discern the difference between following the Word of God through the Holy Spirit versus simply following words we put into God’s mouth? The best way I know to follow Christ’s guidance authentically is to focus on growing in the Seven Heavenly Virtues and learning about the teachings of the Church He established on Earth. Virtues are essential muscles in this overall endeavor because the more those muscles grow the easier it becomes for us to master the Seven Deadly Vices. The less dominated by vice we are the freer we are to submit to the Word of God via the Holy Spirit through faith. It is a faith-driven submission to what our consciences indicate we should do in light of what we honestly understand Christ to be saying through the teachings of His Church. This process requires a willingness to submit even when doing so is inconvenient. Also, any level of understanding of what Christ is saying through His teachings to a believer, no matter how honest on the part of that believer, will always have its limits in this life. This is because the truth that comes from Christ surpasses our mortal abilities to understand it. Understanding the guidance that comes from the Word of God is a process that unfolds gradually, and we will not understand it fully until we see God face-to-face. In the meantime, our faithful submission to the Word of God in the Holy Spirit through His Church’s teachings is the mechanism by which Jesus speaks to us in order to guide us. It is a relationship with Jesus that becomes more complexly and richly personal the less reservedly we give ourselves to Him through it. As we approach celebration of the birth of Christ, let us have an attitude of gratitude for this relationship with Jesus. It was made possible by His birth, death, and Resurrection for the sake of guiding us toward salvation.