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Draw near: O Antiphons

Lynne Baab • Tuesday July 19 2022

Draw near: O Antiphons

O God of words and music, we give thanks
for psalms and hymns and spiritual songs
connecting us to long-ago believers.
We thank you, Lord of sound and harmony,
for the Church’s many voices raised in praise.
Sing your Spirit in our hearts and voices,
that our gratitude might brim and overflow.

O Lord of leaves, O Maker of the trees,
O Rooter of all life by living waters,
Pruner of branches, Ripener of fruit,
Lord who sweetens sap and reddens berries,
help us through the season of cold hearts.
When bare of fruit, build us firm in faith.
Feed our hidden roots until the spring.
—Diane Tucker, from “One Winter: Forty New O Antiphons”

O antiphons are prayers traditionally used during the last seven days of Advent. I read Diane Tucker’s “Forty New O Antiphons” in Advent 2020 and enjoyed them throughout 2021. O antiphons are ancient prayers, dating back to the fifth century, and the O antiphon we are most familiar with is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” You’ll remember the many names for Jesus in that beautiful song: Emmanuel (God with us), Wisdom, Rod of Jesse, Dayspring from on High, Key of David, and Lord of Might. Two additional names for Jesus, from verses we seldom sing, are Bright and Morning Star and King of Nations.

You’ll also remember that every one of the verses of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” expresses a desire. “Come” is requested in every verse, and some of the verses have additional requests, including “ransom captive Israel” and “open wide our heavenly home.”

In her contemporary O antiphons, Diane Tucker has kept the pattern of using a variety of names for God and capitalizing all of them. I invite you to go back to the two stanzas I gave you above. Notice the many names for God. Which ones jump out at you the most? I particularly like “Rooter of all life by living waters.”

Tucker has also continued the pattern of having a request in most stanzas, one that grows out of the names for God she has chosen. Again, notice the requests in the two stanzas above. I particularly like “sing your Spirit in our hearts and voices” and “help us through the season of cold hearts.”

I wonder what names for God might be most real to you today. I wonder how many unusual names for God you could think of, perhaps with your family or small group, names that connect with your deepest joys or deepest needs. I wonder what you would request from God based on those names.

As a closing prayer, I’ll leave you with two additional stanzas from Tucker’s new O antiphons. (If you want to read all forty of them, drop me an email, and I’ll send you a pdf. These beautiful poems/prayers were published in the Christian Century, December 2, 2020.)

O Lord who thought up kangaroos and cacti,
and threw the stars like snowballs into space,
who dashed the Milky Way across the heavens
like a child in love with finger paint,
lift our busy eyes from all distractions
that we might see the beauty you have made.
Help us to awaken and awaken.

O Friend of Sinners, Lord of Gentleness,
a single wounded reed you will not break.
The smallest spark of faith receives your Breath
until that living coal ignites a fire
that fuels the sorry soul, that heats the heart.
Kindle every fire that sleeps within us
that in this world we may be warmth and light.
—Diane Tucker, from “One Winter: Forty New O Antiphons”

(Next week: Celtic thankfulness. Illustration by Dave Baab. I love to get new subscribers. Sign up below to get an email when I post on this blog.)

Big news! Two of my books are now available as audiobooks. Sabbath Keeping recently got uploaded to Audible. Two Hands: Grief and Gratitude in the Christian Life is available in many audiobook formats (links are here). I'm working on more formats for Sabbath Keeping

Three of my favorite articles that I've written:



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