Sunday, 30 November 2008

Hear my cry - the great O antiphons as the basis for advent meditations

My Advent reflections this year will focus on Ruth Burgess' book of daily prayers for Advent Hear my Cry.

The book takes us deeper into the great advent antiphons, offering modern prayers on the themes of the prayers which I have always found deeply inspiring. I think my French Reformed congregations thought I was a bit strange weird when I tried to use them for all age worship.

Ruth Burgess offers daily meditations for the 24 days of Advent and then also a special section for the 17th to 23rd of December, the days when the great antiphons are traditionally said, with additional prayers, Bible readings and reflections. The final part of the book then has some outlines for writing and worship workshops, encouraging us to write our own advent cries and recognize God's diversity and unity.
The advent service at the college chapel would always include the antiphons being read and a candle on a menora being lit at the end of each one. For me these beautiful ancient prayers are truly light in the darkness. The "O" with which each prayer begins the Latin (and old French) word for prayer "ora" or "oraison" - O is also the shape of a mouth open in prayer and praise, perhaps it is also the shape of an open mind. It is also the shape Mary's belly increasingly takes on as the word becomes flesh within her.

The focus of the antiphons is as follows:
Sapientia - Wisdom
Adonai - Ruler
Radix - Root
Clavis - Key
Oriems- Rising Dawn
Rex - King
Emmanuel - God with us

O God of wisdom, teach me to wait ... to be still ... to listen and be attentive to your voice so that I too may become a bearer of your word.