Letter from Fr. Allen - December 13, 2018



Dear Friends,

Advent is a season rich in symbols and in devotions for the faithful, both ancient and new. Let me highlight just two, one briefly and the other at more length. First, this Sunday we keep the more recent tradition of blessing the Christchild figurines from our home crèches. Please bring your own Christchild to Mass; they will be collected by children of the parish who will present them to be blessed at the conclusion of Mass.

Another Advent devotion, this one more ancient, is a series of anthems for the last seven days of the season (so always 17 - 23 December) known as the "Great O Antiphons." The earliest reference I know to the "O Antiphons" is from Boethius, writing about the year 500, and they have been part of the Daily Office/Liturgy of the Hours since at least that time. The anthems are now sung or said before and after the Magnificat at Evening Prayer, and they also form the verse for the Alleluia before the Gospel at Mass on their proper days.

Each of the anthems addresses the Lord with a Messianic title taken from the Hebrew Scriptures, and then beseeches the Lord to come and redeem us with imagery more or less appropriate to the title. So, to take just one example, "O Key of David... come and bring the prisoner out of the prison house" (cf Is 22.22). Another layer of meaning is added when, working backwards from the last antiphon, the initial letter of each title is taken to form an acrostic in Latin, ERO CRAS - or, "Tomorrow, I will come."

There is one more of these antiphons not included in the Roman Missal and peculiar to our patrimony in the Ordinariates; It shows up in our missal as the Alleluia verse for the morning Mass on Christmas Eve day, O Virgo virginum: 

O Virgin of virgins, how shall this be? For neither before thee was any like thee, nor shall there be after. Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me? The thing which ye behold is a divine mystery.

This was an eighth "O Antiphon" in medieval England, when that green and pleasant land was known as "Mary's Dowery." With this antiphon, the reverse acrostic then becomes VERO CRAS - "Verily, I shall [come]."

All of the Great O Antiphons are provided for you [here]. I encourage you to meditate on them in these latter days of Advent and to enter more deeply into the mystery of redemption that is brought to us through this Child who comes to us. You might especially make them part of your family devotions, either as you say grace at meals, or at the lighting of your Advent Wreath, or as a devotion before your home crèche.

God bless you,
Fr Allen

P.S. An update for those of you who have ordered the Divine Worship Missal: People's Edition - the missals have been ordered and are expected to ship from England this Monday. There is just this slightest chance that they may be here by Christmas Day, but more likely they will arrive a couple days after Christmas. In any case, as soon as they arrive I will let you know, and we will have them available to be picked up at Mass. And yes, there will be extra copies available for purchase if you have not pre-ordered.