Our Lady of the Expectation, Lady of ‘O’

Today is the feast of Our Lady of the Expectation. This Marian feast is sadly no longer on the universal liturgical calendar but it is retained in some places like Spain, Portugal, Italy and Poland plus with a few religious orders. Yet, “Our Lady of Expectation” educates all of us, especially the Christian family.

With Our Lady of the Expectation we have a view at Divine Motherhood which takes the opportunity to contemplate the great longing and anticipation of Advent, in which “all creation is groaning in labor pains” oriented toward the promise of the Messiah. Divine Motherhood puts our attention to the meaning of new life brought about by mothers who ought to find in Mary the great model: “Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke 1:42).

The Church prays, “O God who wished that your Word would take the flesh from the womb of the Virgin as announced by the Angel and whom we confess to be the true Mother of God, may we be helped by her intercession.”

In Spain, the place where this feast day originated, (cf. the Tenth Council of Toledo, AD 656), this feast day is Nuestra Senora de la O: Our Lady of the O, the “O” coming from the expression of longing said in the office of the Mozarabic Liturgy. In the Latin Rite, today’s feast comes in the middle of the “O” Antiphons (where we get the words for the hymn Veni, Veni, Emmanuel — in English O Come, O Come Emmanuel).

Advent is to proclaim salvation

Tonight, the Latin Church begins her preparation for the Nativity of the Lord. Pope Benedict said at one of his addresses at the Sunday Angelus:

… we have been experiencing the liturgical season of Advent: a time of openness to God’s future, a time of preparation for Christmas, when he, the Lord, who is the absolute novelty, came to dwell in the midst of this fallen humanity to renew it from within. In the Advent liturgy there resounds a message full of hope, which invites us to lift up our gaze to the ultimate horizon, but at the same time to recognize the signs of God-with-us in the present. The Lord wants to do in Advent: to speak to the heart of his people and, through them, to the whole of humanity, to proclaim salvation.

 

As a Benedictine Oblate, I have to myself:

How has my Oblation lifted my gaze to my ultimate horizon? That is, in what ways does my Oblate life lead me closer to my destiny with God? In what ways does my Oblate life open my heart to hear the Lord speaking to me and open my hands in putting my faith into action?

The O Antiphons have meaning

Today, the monasteries around the world make their solemn entrance into the last week of preparation before Christmas. . .the first of the great O Antiphons begins to be sung at the time of the Magnificat. These beautiful antiphons, pregnant with meaning, are true bearers of Advent hope and joy.

In them, according to a French liturgist, the liturgy of Advent finds its fullness and plenitude. The O Antiphons are extremely significant to both the Advent and the monastic liturgy. The rich spiritual content of the antiphons is invaluable, starting with the one we solemnly sing today which opens : O Wisdom, O holy word of God’s mouth. . .

Br. Victor-Antoine D’Avila  Latourrette, OSB
A Monastery Journey to Christmas

O Antiphons

o-wisdomThe days before Christmas are typically marked by naming the titles that Jesus bears. The music for the antiphons is terrific. Each of the seven “O Antiphons” (also called the “Greater Antiphons” or “Major Antiphons”) come from the Magnificat antiphon for Vespers during the Octave before Christmas Eve, a time which is called the “Golden Nights.”

Each Antiphon begins with “O” and addresses Jesus with a unique title which comes from the prophecies of Isaiah and Micah, and whose initials, when read backwards, form an acrostic for the Latin “Ero Cras” which means “Tomorrow I come.” Those titles for Christ are:

Starting tonight, we begin with Sapientia; tomorrow and the days ahead we move on to: Adonai, Radix Jesse, Clavis David, Oriens, Rex Gentium, Emmanuel

The O Antiphons in both English and Latin:

December 17

Wisdom that comest out of the mouth of the Most High, that reachest from one end to another, and orderest all things mightily and sweetly, come to teach us the way of prudence!

Latin
O Sapientia, quæ ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiæ.

December 18

Adonai, and Ruler of the house of Israel, Who didst appear unto Moses in the burning bush, and gavest him the law in Sinai, come to redeem us with an outstretched arm!

Latin
O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammæ rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

December 19

Root of Jesse, which standest for an ensign of the people, at Whom the kings shall shut their mouths, Whom the Gentiles shall seek, come to deliver us, do not tarry.

Latin
O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem Gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

December 20

Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel, that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth, come to liberate the prisoner from the prison, and them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.

Latin
O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel; qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

December 21

Dayspring, Brightness of the everlasting light, Sun of justice, come to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death!

Latin
O Oriens, splendor lucis æternæ, et sol justitiæ: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

December 22

King of the Gentiles, yea, and desire thereof! O Corner-stone, that makest of two one, come to save man, whom Thou hast made out of the dust of the earth!

Latin
O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.

December 23

Emmanuel, our King and our Law-giver, Longing of the Gentiles, yea, and salvation thereof, come to save us, O Lord our God!

Latin
O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, exspectatio gentium, et Salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos Domine Deus noster.

Advent waiting is twofold

We wait and wait for the Lord. We become very conscious of the waiting. It is an eager waiting, full of anticipation and wonder, for as with the prophets of old, our companions on the road, we long to see his face.

The Lord, of course, is very much aware of this patient waiting, of this deep yearning for him, and he is ever ready to come into our lives and fulfill our deepest desires. Advent waiting is always twofold. On our part, we await prayerfully, consciously, and anticipate his coming. On God’s part, he is eager to arrive and find a warm dwelling place in our hearts. The greater our desire and patience in waiting for him, the fuller we shall be filled with his presence.

If we learn to cultivate this inner attitude of waiting for him steadily, faithfully, not only during the Blessed Advent days, but throughout the whole of our lives, we shall likewise be rewarded with the grace, joy, and warmth of his real presence in the innermost of our hearts.

Monastery Journey to Christmas
Br. Victor-Antoine D’Avila-Latourrette OSB

Our Advent observance

The scriptures tell us that there is a time and season for everything, for each particular event. There is a time of preparing for Christmas, and that is Advent, and then there is a time for Christmas itself. There is no doubt in my mind that the more serious we are about our personal Advent journey, the greater the joy we shall reap during our Christmas celebration.

It is a good practice to make concrete plans on how best to keep our Advent observance. Often, if no plans are made in advance, much of Advent goes unnoticed and wasted. Since Advent is basically a quiet time of waiting for the arrival of the Light at Christmas, it is good to start by trying to become more internally quiet during this rather brief season.

Above all, we must make the most of these moments of stillness by remaining calm, silent, and spending quality time with the Lord. The words from one of the psalms counsel us: Be still, and know that I am God. Monks always strive to preserve a more quiet recollected spirit during these lovely Advent days and thus enjoy the Lord’s intimate company.

There is no reason why others, in a monastery or elsewhere, could not do the same wherever they are. It is a question of resolving to do so and making the effort. The Holy Spirit will do the rest. Come, Holy Spirit.

A Monastery Journey To Christmas
Br. Victor-Antoine D’Avila-Latourrette, OSB

Preparing for the Messiah: patiently waiting in Advent

During these blessed Advent days, we, too, are called to imitate the Israelites by cultivating an attitude of strong hope, patiently waiting as they did, for the arrival of the expected Messiah. The reading and prayers in the liturgy, especially the psalms, encourage us to “relive” Israel’s eager waiting for the Savior, and to do this in peace and joyful expectation. From the depths of our being we pray for Emanuel to come be with us and to save us.

Through our Christian faith we know that the Messiah, the Christ, has already come once and that he will come again, a second time, at the end of time. It is not a coincidence that today both pious Jews and fervent Christians are still awaiting his coming. Indeed we both have much in common. We are both waiting for the same Person!

When he comes, his coming shall be a first time for the Jewish people and second time for the Christians. However, for both Jews and Christians, in fact for all people, this shall be his last and final coming. Thus is our Advent hope and why we find great consolation in our common waiting. Veni, Emmanuel!” Come, Emmanuel!

Br. Victor-Antoine D’Avila Latourrette, OSB
A Monastery Journey to Christmas

4th Sunday of Advent

visitationThe Psalm for today’s Mass has us singing: “Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved” (80). See in this verse what is happening between Mary and Elizabeth. Think of the baby Jesus leaping for joy in the womb of Mary at meeting of his cousin John. Have you been able to help others to experience, i.e., to see and to hear the Good News of Jesus coming into history this week? Have we made a place for Christ in hearts today?

A prominent Cistercian Father guides our reflection –Blessed Guerric of Iggy taught:

“’Be ready to go out to meet the Lord, O Israel, for he is coming…’ Do, Lord, rise up to meet me as I run to meet you. Since I have not the strength to scale your summits unless you stretch out your hand to me whom your hands have made, rise to meet me, and see whether there is any sinful way in me. If you find any sinful way in me at all, take it from me. Grant me the grace to live by your law and lead me in the ways of eternity, that is, in Christ who is the way by which we journey and the eternity which is our journey’s end: and undefiled way and a blessed dwelling place.”

Advent 2015

Nativity detail GDavid“How is it we are saved by you, O Lord, from whom salvation comes and whose blessing is upon your people, if it is not in receiving from you the gift of loving you and being loved by you? That, Lord, is why you willed that the Son of your right hand, the Man whom you made strong for your own self, should be called Jesus, that is, Savior, for he will save his people from their sins. There is no other in whom is salvation except him who taught us to love himself when he first loved us, even to death on the cross. By loving us and holding us so dear he stirred us up to love himself, who first had loved us to the end.”

―William of Saint-Thierry