O Oriens

O Oriens

December 21st marks the winter solstice and the accompanying antiphon is appropriately, O Oriens or O Dayspring. The antiphon reads,

O Dayspring splendor of light eternal and sun of righteousness: come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

The prayer finds its inspiration in several Bible passages:

Isaiah 9:2 The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”
Malachi 4:2 But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.
Luke 1:76-79 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Here’s a sonnet for the antiphon.

Turned west, this sunset of humanity
Denies the dusk of death’s looming shadow.
Reviles the real as some profanity
Which pilfers profit and ruins workflow.

O Sun of Righteousness, make right and shine
On prisoners who dwell in dark dungeons,
On the worried who’s weeds choke and entwine,
And the pharisee who can’t see his sin.

O Dayspring, shine, flood our grey town in light
Drive back the darkness in which lurks our fears.
Dawn! Flood! Arise! Illuminate our night!
Speak tender mercies, wipe away our tears.

When with healing wings the Sun rise on all,
We bound as joyful calves from winter’s stall.

© Randy Edwards, 2016.
This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.
photo: Randy Edwards, sunrise Cherry Grove, SC

O Clavis II

O Clavis II

The Great O Antiphon for December 20 is O Clavis. The text of which reads,

O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel; you open and no one can shut; you shut and no one can open: Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house, those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

The scriptural allusions in the prayer can be found in the following passages:

Isaiah. 22:22:” I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.”
Isaiah 9:2 “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
Revelation 3:7   “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: ‘The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.”

O Key of David, set my bound will free;
Unlock the door, that I may walk your way—
Cheerful, resolved, with bright alacrity
To step from the shadows into the day.

Rise! Ride your chariot, your courses run,
Rain down truth, pierce with your arrows of light;
Shine bright O Clavis, as the noonday sun!
Deliver me from death, dis-spell the night.

For resentment has rusted my hard heart–
The spring is broken, will not free the latch;
Use your key to loose, use your locksmith’s art
To turn the bolt, spring the pins, free the catch.

I behold a door hung, see his pierced side,
And the Key turns my heart, enters, abides.

© Randy Edwards 2018
This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.
artwork: from The Queen Mary Apocalypse, England (London or East Anglia), 1st quarter of the 14th century, Royal 19 B. xv, f. 38v

O Radix

O Radix

The O Antiphon for December 19 is O Radix or O Root. The antiphon reads, “O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples; before you kings will shut their mouths, to you the nations will make their prayer: Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.”

The antiphon draws from passages from Isaiah 11 and elsewhere.
Isaiah 11:1 reads, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” and Iaiah 11:10 reads, “In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.  11 In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the sea. 12 He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.”

O Root of Jesse, the green, tender shoot
From whom the kingdom branches, stretches, springs
Into the earth become, reach down, take root
To free the captives, lead out in blessings.

O Root of Jesse, who walked Galilee
Preaching, working wonders among your own
Stopping to heal whomever cried, “Mercy!”
To you, David’s son, no mercy was shown.

O Root of Jesse, born for us to die,
Stretched out on a tree, its wrapped thorns your crown,
Raised to life, your tomb opened to the sky–
As the stump springs green though the tree cut down.

O Root of Jesse, who comes to make free,
Take root in my heart, grow your grace in me

© Randy Edwards 2018

This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.

O Radix

O Radix

December 19 is the date in which the Great O Antiphons, O Radix is sung on either side of the Magnificat. This is a repost of a previous meditation on O Radix.

“O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples; before you kings will shut their mouths, to you the nations will make their prayer: Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.”

Isaiah 11:1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a
Branch will bear fruit.

There is nothing so hopeless as a tree’s
Stump whose root has been lopped of green
Cut down, left lifeless, without its leaves
To lie in lament, to sorrow only cling.

O Root of Jesse, the stump from which
Buds our righteousness, joy, and peace
Who makes the scorned, the cut off rich,
Who were despised, hated, counted least.

O how may hope from this lifeless wood,
This cursed, crossed tree raised above,
Hanging with death, certainly no good,
Could spring in new life, sing wondrous love.
Come quickly Root of Jesse, deliver and bring
The peace which the nations long and sing.

© Randy Edwards 2016This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.

O Wisdom II

O Wisdom II

I am reposting this because today, December 17, is Sapientia.

This is a sonnet based upon the Great O Antiphon, O Sapientia which is sung on December 17. The antiphon reads,

“O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other mightily,
and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.”

Along with the references to Genesis 1, John 1, Proverbs 8, and Exodus 20, I draw from Isaiah 11:2-4a for inspiration.

Of those gifts for which we long, wisdom is one which we are in constant need: Should I do this or that? Should I go here or there? How do I do this? What will enable me to endure that? What answer will satisfy the deeply troubling question of, Why? All these questions wisdom, knowledge, and insight answer.

I have written a sonnet about Proverbs 8’s embodiment of wisdom as the most desirable woman here. In Advent and through John 1, we understand that wisdom is the logos, the “word which has become flesh and dwelt among us.”  This is the word who was present at creation, who is the righteousness of the Law, and who is the the embodiment of Isaiah 11’s king who is also the root and tender shoot of Jesse.

One of the defining marks of the gospel’s wisdom is its irony. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:27 that, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong”. The sophistry and might of worldliness is shouted down by the cries of a baby delivered to a teenage mother, on the fringes of society, far from the lighted centers of power, influence, and authority.

As we face and admit our longing this Advent, let’s remember our longing for and need of wisdom. Come, O Wisdom!

If it is helpful, you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player embedded below.

In the silence, before song and speech
The Spirit breathes o’er the water’s night;
Wisdom inhales all creation to teach
Awaiting the command, “Let there be light!”

O’er Sinai the I AM’s glory thunders
Wisdom speaks again, makes His glory known
Writes with his own hand in worded wonders
Promise revealed onto tablets of stone.

Isaiah’s King shall rule with right wisdom.
Jesse’s leaf and root, a counselor with sight
With justice leads the poor in his kingdom
Lifts up the meek, sets brokenness aright.

Tonight, Wisdom waits, poised in the world’s wild–
Exhales in the darkness through the cries of a child.

© Randall Edwards 2016
This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud in worship services, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks!

O Emmanuel (God with Us)

The Great O Antiphon for December 23 is “O Emmanuel”. The antiphon reads, “O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver, the hope of the nations and their Savior: Come and save us, O Lord our God.”

The antiphon is the culmination of the Old Testament prophecies and names for the coming Savior. The name, “Emmanuel”, means, “God with Us”. We are now ready to receive the news of the coming One who is the fulfillment of all the desires expressed in each of the previous antiphons.

This sonnet was written during a particularly difficult time in which I was feeling alone in my circumstances and thin with respect to the resources I had available. Am I alone? Is there hope and help to be had? What sort of king would be of help to me, would care for me? And what of the tension between what I know are the right answers and my actual experience of believing? Lastly, how do I imagine that hope coming and that hope being fulfilled? The answer always surprises.

You may listen to me read the antiphon via the player below.

Far, so far away is any king from me;
Beyond so many bolstered gates and doors;
His ear is taken with so many other pleas—
Matters greater than my petty economy and wars.
One’s hope I’m told, is not one if it’s seen;
So say the preachers whom I’ve often heard;
I try to listen, understand what they all must mean,
But worry and care hide the hope, choke the Sower’s word.
If only help could come to us, bearing our salvation,
One who holds, can keep, one safe to lean upon—
Strong and broad enough to fill the hope of every nation
And enfold us all in arms of love till all our fear is gone.
Swaddled by his mother, Hope is delivered in a stable,
God is with us. God is loving. God is willing. God is able.

© Randy Edwards 2016

This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.

O Dayspring (O Oriens)

O Dayspring (O Oriens)

The Great O Antiphon for December 21 is O Oriens, which is often translated, “O Dayspring”. The Latin has within its meaning both the “dawn”, the “morning”, “morning star”, and “east”; it is the word from which we both get “orient” as in the “Orient” but also “orient” as in “orientation”.

The antiphon reads,

O Dayspring splendor of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

I believe the author had the following verses in mind when they wrote the antiphon:

Isaiah 9:2 The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.”

Malachi 4:2 But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.

Luke 1:76-79 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

As a culture, we have more often been oriented to the West. It is wild; it is the direction of our manifest destiny. We are told by our mother, “Go west, young man”. The West is the future. Having spent a couple of summers in the outdoor drama, Horn in the West, I heard each night the narrator affirm this sentiment with the following words which I recall this way, but am not entirely sure the wording is exact,

“In the evening West, beyond the last mountain peak, slowly dies the sun in a sea of bronze and crimson. In its setting is the majestic assurance that tomorrow will come, that a new day will rise. Always the hopes and dreams of mankind seem to lie not in the East, but in the fiery land of the sunset. The gaze of man is westward, as if he could hear somewhere beyond the great, golden reaches of eternity, blowing in the West, a Horn of Freedom.”

The church however, has not oriented herself to the West but rather to the East. The church looks to the Morning Star and to the dawn. In fact many churches and cathedrals are oriented to the sunrise so that the congregation enters from the West and is facing East when they worship. The West and subsequently the sunset is the direction of the end of day and of life and light. Our secular or mortal mindset is to “eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die”. We grab all we can get because we think there is nothing after, or we do all we can because we believe we can achieve immortality through what we leave behind. Neither of these answers. We long for a new start, a new day, but how will we survive the night which falls before that dawn?

This is a sonnet based upon the antiphon, O Dayspring. If it is helpful, you may listen to me read it via the audio player below.

https://audioboom.com/posts/5023328-o-dayspring-o-oriens

 

Facing west, this sunset of humanity
Denies the falling night of death’s looming shadow.
Reality is reviled as a form of profanity
That pilfers the profits, efficiency, workflow.
O Sun of Righteousness, make right and shine
On the dark cruelties of our society’s sins
Whose roots choke our hearts, our affections entwine
And can only be freed when confession begins.

O Dayspring, shine, flood our grey town in light
Drive back the darkness in which lurks our fears.
Dawn! Arise! Illuminate our night!
Speak tenderly in mercy, wipe away all our tears.
When with healing in his wings this Sun rise upon us all,
We shall bound in joy released as a calf from winter’s stall.

© Randy Edwards, 2016.
This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog (backwardmutters.com). Thanks.

photo: Randy Edwards, sunrise Cherry Grove