The Great O Antiphons were traditionally sung before and after the Magnificat at Evensong starting on December 17. They are most familiar to us as they were paraphrased as the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”
The reflections are a gift from the Reverend Canon Leonel L. Mitchell, Th.D. He is the retired professor of liturgics at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary and Canon Theologian of the Episcopal Cathedral of St. James, South Bend, IN.
The prologue to St. John’s Gospel tells us, “In the beginning was the Word,, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” We are probably less familiar with Wisdom 9:9-10, “With you [God] is wisdom, she who knows your works and was present when you made the world. . . Send her forth from the holy heavens, and from the throne of your glory send her.” Wisdom in this context is understood by Christians to be John’s Logos, another name for Christ. It was the name Constantine, and later Justinian gave to the great cathedral in Constantinople, Hagia Sophia, the Church of the Holy Wisdom. It is this of which this first of the Great O Antiphons reminds us. Jesus Christ is “the eternal Word, the Wisdom from on high by whom [God] created all things.” When we look at creation we see the Divine Wisdom at work, and when we look out on the world and the church today and see the turmoil and destruction we human beings are and have been reeking upon it, this message seems to be right on target, “Come and teach us the way of prudence.” It is not only a Christmas gift, it seems to be a real lack in our present precarious world situation.