"O Antiphons" & Advent Marian Anthems

Nov 30, 2020

Join us for Vespers for the "O Antiphons"

"O Antiphons"

Beginning December 17th, the Church of the Resurrection will mark the final week of Advent with the ancient tradition of the singing of Vespers on each night of this week at 6:30pm. Are you ready to start a new, very meaningful family tradition this year?

The Vespers for this week are special in that each of these liturgies contain special text that is associated with the singing of the “Magnificat” chant which holds pride of place in the Vesper liturgy. The Magnificat text is the Canticle of Mary, which Mary exclaims after being visited by her cousin Elizabeth in the Gospel of St. Luke. In the Catholic Church, we sing this text every time we sing the divine office of Vespers. It is especially meaningful during this final week of Advent in that each day the canticle is preceded by a different Antiphon. For instance, on December 17th we will all sing the antiphon, “O Sapientia” or “O Wisdom” before and after the canticle.

Each day is set off by a new text:

December 17: “O Sapientia” (O Wisdom)
December 18: “O Adonai” (O Lord)
December 19: “O Radix Jesse” (O root of Jesse)
December 20: “O Clavis David”(O key of David)
December 21: “O Oriens” (O rising sun)
December 22: “O Rex gentium” (O King of the nations)
December 23: “O Emmanuel” (O who God is with us)

In his writings on the singing of the “O Antiphons,” Fr. Columba Kelly, OSB gives further insight into the traditions of the singing of these texts:

The structure of these texts starts with an invocation to the Messiah with a title inspired by the Old Testament; then the title is expanded and developed; finally, the text concludes with an appeal for the Messiah to come and act on our behalf according to the title given to him at the beginning of the antiphon. (The first letter of these titles when read backwards (E-R-O-C-R-A-S), spells the Latin words “ero cras” = “tomorrow I shall be here.”)

At the Church of the Resurrection, we have continued the tradition of singing the Office of Vespers each Sunday evening at 7:00pm, after the close of the 5:30 Mass. During this final week of Advent, we will gather at 6:30pm each night in the church as a very special way to prepare ourselves for Christmas.

If you have never participated in the Vespers service at the Church of the Resurrection, you may be slightly intimidated on how to enter in. We will be offering a special tutorial for those that would like to enter in using the simple chant melodies from the Mundelein Psalter. This is a particularly approachable vehicle for the singing of the Divine Offices from the Mundelein Seminary in Illinois. Check back on this site for further updates on this tutorial. It should also be said, that a person may also choose to actively participate through prayerful silence and will also be able to take much away from the experience.

Alma Redemtoris Mater

The beloved Alma RedemptorisMater is a Marian Anthem, sung at Compline and Lauds. There are four of these hymns of praise used in the liturgy of the hours, most of which you will recognize: the Ave Regina Caelorum for post-Christmas through Lent, Regina Coeli for Easter and Pentecost, the Salve Regina post-Pentecost (which has been sung at the end of Masses throughout summer), and the Alma Redemptoris Mater, sung through all of Advent and Christmas to the Feast of the Purification on February 2nd. It dates at least to the 11th century and within it appears the Marian title "Star of the Sea", a title dating back to St. Jerome (4th cent.).

The Alma Redemptoris has been so popular a chant that is has been used for many famous choral settings, including the setting by Palestrina, sung many times at Church of the Resurrection. It even inspired Chaucer to write "The Prioresses Tale" in which a young pupil is swept away when "he Alma Redemptoris herde singe" and assiduously listens until he memorizes it. When martyred for his love of Mary, his lifeless body sings this Marian hymn. It meditates on one of great subversions of the Christian Faith, that a creature bore her own Creator, to the natura mirante, to the amazement of nature.

Loving mother of the Redeemer,
gate of heaven, star of the sea,
assist your people who have fallen yet strive to rise again,
To the wonderment of nature you bore your Creator,
yet remained a virgin after as before,
You who received Gabriel's joyful greeting,
have pity on us poor sinners.

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