Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Eighth "O Antiphon"

While we don't know the exact origins of the "O Antiphons", they do seem to be from the very earliest centuries of the Church. Benedictine monks arranged them in the order we now use - Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia - which creates the Latin word ERO CRAS, "Tomorrow, I will come".

But there is a later custom, from medieval England, which adds an eigths "O Antiphon" for Christmas Eve itself - "O Virgo virginum". By adding this verse to the above order we now have VERO CRAS, "Truly, tomorrow". Here is the text:

O Virgo virginum, quomodo fiet istud?
Quia nec primam similem visa es nec habere sequentem.
Filiae Jerusalem, quid me admiramini?
Divinum est mysterium hoc quod cernitis.

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.

Having my deep interest in hymnody, I felt the need for this verse being a part of the familiar "Veni, Veni, Emmanuel", and have added this eighth verse to that hymn:

O Virgin blest, how shall this be?
For none before or after thee
Are blest this Myst'ry to behold:
The coming of the Lord foretold.

I do have files available to anyone interested - in TIF format for inserting the above into a printed program and the organ accompaniment in PDF format. If you would like them sent, be sure to include your email address.