Joe has done a nice series of posts for his theological blog, Diatheke, or διαθηκη (which google tells me means covenant.) But I digress. The point of this post is not to prattle about Greek or ἑλληνική. But to talk about Joe's seasonally appropriate and educational posts on what are called, among those who know such things, the O Antiphons.
I'm going to put this in Plainer English. And probably I'm wrong, but I'll have Joe read this later and correct me. But if you don't need plainer English, feel free to click on the following links for his meditative posts on the O Antiphons.
This link will take you to the introductory post in the series, which Joe posted on December 16. Or follow this link to get to the index tab which would include all the posts under the O Antiphons subject. But you'll have to scroll down and then click on "earlier" posts to get to the beginning of the series.
An antiphon is a liturgical device in which the pastor/leader/chanter sings or speaks one part, to which the congregation responds in kind. The style is often also used more generally in choral singing. But that's not the subject of this series of posts. This post is talking about, among other things, a particular set of liturgical antiphons called the O Antiphons.
Now, more liturgical jargon, which I'm going to try to make plain without sacrificing accuracy. In the historical liturgical church year, each day has a set of Bible readings which can be used by the church or in personal Bible Study and devotion. Many hymnals list these in the front pages.
A person looking for these resources might search for pericope, lectionary, daily readings, daily missal, or probably other words and phrases, too. There are two primary series of these readings used among Lutherans today. The Historic Lectionary and the 3-Year Lectionary Cycle.
The Historic Lectionary uses the traditional arrangement of readings, that has stayed mostly consistent from as far back as the church has records of such things. The sequence of readings is arranged according to the traditional church year, and within the course of a given year, teaches the whole of Scripture from a doctrinally thematic standpoint. The 3-year cycle teaches all of Scripture from a "let's read through the whole Bible in 3-years standpoint," for lack of a better word.
There are stronger and weaker points to each and this article is not, definitely not, going to get into that.
Because I want to talk about the O Antiphons, remember?
Ok, now here I'm a bit sketchy, and I can't even ask my resident liturgical expert, since he's out on visits. Which is in fact his job. So I'll have to wing it. Much of this will be based upon 30-some year old memories from my Lutheran elementary school hymnology classes, in which we learned about not only hymns, but also about the many mysterious and lesser used parts of the hymnal and how to use them.
So, for this part, I'm going to pull out my old TLH (The Lutheran Hymnal, Concordia Publishing House, 1941) since that's the hymnal with which I was raised.
If I open that particular hymnal, I'll do it very carefully because it's pretty old and well-used. In fact, I can still read on the inside cover where my mom wrote, "Merry Christmas, 1973." I can also see where one of my school classmates added a, "Hi Mary!" to the inscription. I can't remember who wrote that, but the name Brenda comes to mind. I can picture a face with her, too. And a last name. But I'm not sure if it's right. Wow, isn't that weird how people can come and go in one's memory? I haven't thought of her for years, and now I know for a fact that she wrote Eddy Rabbit's name on the cover of her notebook and when I asked her who Eddie Rabbit was, she looked at me like I just crawled out from under a rock. She also could draw a nice barn and hillside as she doodled. Ok, weird.
Again, I digress. The O Antiphons, Mary. Concentrate...
If I open the TLH to page 54, I find a list of what is called Introits, Collects, and Graduals for the Church year. Mysterious sounding words indeed. But they basically refer to the opening sentences and the prayers during a service for each Sunday of the church liturgical year. On page 95, I find a list of what is called Invitatories, Antiphons, Responsories, and Versicles for the church year. These are more liturgical materials that a pastor may or may not choose to put into his weekly services in place of or along with the liturgies as they are written. And throughout the pages following these, I can find such things as Prayers, Litanys, Suffrages, Canticles and Psalms. More mysterious sounding names, but feel free to think of them as prayers and psalms. And finally after the Psalms, I find the charts for all the church year devotional materials. (The TLH used the historic lectionary, since the various 3-year plans mostly came about in the 60s and 70s.) Besides the weekly readings, which are the readings used by a pastor in church on Sunday, if he uses the historic lectionary, I can also find in the TLH, a chart with daily readings for each of the weeks of the church year. Those front mysterious parts of a hymnal are a bountiful harvest, a veritable treasure trove, of devotional materials.
But even in the rich pages of the TLH, or whatever hymnal you use in your church today, even there, they don't list all the devotional materials that have been used throughout the ages as tools to help focus our meditation upon one or another part of the church year and therefore also one or another truth of Scripture.
Remember the O Antiphons? I mentioned them way back when. In the linked series of articles, Joe explains this little gem of devotional material that has been called in the church for many hundreds of years, the O Antiphons. Most of you know the familiar Christmas hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel. This hymn is a summary of the O Antiphons. As Joe explains in his introductory article, the O Antiphons, and also this hymn when all the verses are used, teaches the whole of Scripture. It teaches the attributes of God in all their gracious and glorious splendor. The entire story of Salvation.
The O Antiphons are traditionally used during the season of Advent, particularly the seven days leading up to Christmas Day.
Besides the introductory article Joe did on the 16th, he wrote an article for each of the following days, ending today, the December 23. Be sure to bookmark this series of devotions now to use next year, starting on December 16.
But read them right now, too. Or one a day for the next several days. It really doesn't matter what time of year one reads and meditates on various segments of the Bible after all.
Thanks, Joe for teaching me about this worship and meditation tool.