It’s been a dark and difficult weekend as we’ve all sat numb in grief and horror, sorrow and shock. Words cannot adequately express the sadness for the victims of Friday’s tragedy.
When I am wordless, I often turn to the written word to guide my prayers. And this Advent, I’ve sought these words in Scripture and historical prayers.
One particularly meaningful litany for me this month has been whispering, contemplating, and returning to whisper again the ancient “O Antiphons.” These prayers from early Christendom — possibly as early as the fifth century — have been echoed by the saints, resonating through the years. They are prayers of yearning and longing; they are affirmations of promise and hope. Drawn from phrases in Scripture describing the Messiah, these prayers are traditionally prayed one per day on December 17th through the 23rd. I haven’t waited until today, though. I’ve found my soul’s rhythm in these prayers, focusing my heart on the Messiah who is light illuminating all the world’s darkness.
Journey through these prayers. Embrace their theological truth. Let them remind you of the ultimate hope that Jesus alone fulfills.O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free. O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid. O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom. O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death. O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.
(Christians created these prayers from passages including Isaiah 2:4; 7:14; 9:2, 6–7; 11:1–5, 10; 22:22; 28:16; 33:22; 42:1–7; 60:1–3.)