Sunday, December 15, 2013

Advent Alphabet 2013 - Day 15

The alphabet block for today is O, representing Oratio, oblation, oasis and O Antiphons

 Oratio is the third step of Lectio Divina. After slow and thoughtful reading of a passage of scripture (lectio), there was a period of reflection (meditatio) on a word or phrase that seemed to stand out. After a few minutes of refection, which should include not only engaging the mind but also the heart and the spiritual ears, comes oratio which means prayer. What thoughts seem to want to be expressed to God? What questions? What emotions have been brought forward? Prayers don’t have to be fancy or even organized; think of it as a conversation with a dear and trusted friend. One result could be a drawing closer to God, a deepening love and feeling of being loved. There is one more stage, rest (contemplation), which will bring the exercise to a close.

 Oblation is a word that means something offered to God. One of the Offertory Sentences which can be used in the Episcopal Church is “Let us with gladness present the offerings and oblations of our life and labor to the Lord” (p.377). The offerings are the gifts presented in the alms basins (offering plates) and the oblations are the gifts of bread and wine that are presented to the deacon or celebrant and placed on the altar for consecration. In a deeper sense, though, an oblation is, as the Catechism puts it, “. . . [A]n offering of ourselves, our lives and labors, in union with Christ, for the purposes of God” (p. 857). We present our whole selves – not just what we dig out of our wallets or purses or even tear from our checkbooks. While it isn’t a specifically Advent-ish thing, it can be a door to opening ourselves to God in another form of spiritual practice. Even at home, during meditation, preparing for Lectio Divina or prayer, offering one’s whole self to God sets the stage for reception of what God wants us to see, know and do.

Oasis may seem like a funny word for Advent but it fits in some odd ways. An oasis is a place of rest, where one can stop, rest, reorganize, reorient themselves and prepare for the rest of the journey. The third Sunday of Advent is Gaudete Sunday, gaudete being the word for “Rejoice” which was the first word in the Latin opening introit (statements that begin the liturgy for the day). The vestments and church hangings may be changed to rose pink for the day but and the third candle lit on the Advent wreath is pink. It marks a sort of oasis in the journey from Advent to the nativity. The last part of the journey is still ahead, but on this Sunday, we can rest, reorient ourselves, give thanks and rejoice. “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say Rejoice” (Phil. 4:4 KJV).

Most congregations sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” at least once during the Advent Season. While not an actual translation, the hymn is based on what are called O Antiphons . An antiphon is a verse that is sung before and usually after a hymn, canticle or psalm. The O Antiphons are verses sung before and after the Magnificat, the song Mary sang at the visitation of Gabriel, at Vespers (an evening service from which our Evening Prayer grew), one on each the seven days before Christmas, beginning on December 17th. One antiphon is sung each day and each represents either a name or an attribute of God that comes from the Hebrew Bible. “O Wisdom,” “O Lord of Might,” “O Root of Jesse,” “O Key of David,” O Dayspring,” “O King of Nations,” and “O Emmanuel” describe aspects of God that are Christians believe are made manifest through the birth, life and ministry of Jesus.  The antiphons themselves have been in use in the church since at least the eighth or ninth century.  In Latin, the first letter of the first word (Sapientia, Adonai, Radix Jesse, Clavis David, Oriens, Rex Gentium, and Emmanuel) read backwards is Ero Cras which, in Latin means “Tomorrow I come.”  Rather appropriate, isn’t it? The next day after the last antiphon is sung is Christmas Day – the day we celebrate as the day of Jesus’ birth.

We reach an oasis point in our Advent preparations. We practice our Lectio Divina, we offer ourselves to God daily and we recall the names and titles which God has been given over the millennia and which for us represent the presence of Christ as king, son of David, savior and Lord. Take time to rejoice!

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