The “O Antiphons”: O Wisdom of our God Most High: December 17
With the use of “O Wisdom” as the Magnificat antiphon, today, December 17, marks a change in the season of Advent. For those who do not pray the liturgy of the hours, it may be something you have never been aware of before. Each antiphon before the Magnificat (the prayer of Mary) begins with the word “O” and provides a rich theology of how we understand the Christ. It has been a tradition in the Church since the 8th century.
From now until December 23, thefriar.org will post a short reflection on these titles. It is an opportunity to pray and reflect on the richness of the Word becoming flesh. Each title used is an image from the Old Testament that foreshadows and prophesies about the coming of the Messiah, Jesus the Christ. As we look to forward to Christmas, these antiphons remind us that we dwell in the fullness of time, the already here and not yet here time of the Kingdom of God.
While none of these titles fully describe God, they remind us of important attributes of the divine we can never completely grasp. The tension of Jesus being fully divine and fully human is a mystery. I can never be fully resolved. There are times when the divinity of Jesus is so emphasized, we lose sight of the fact God’s love is so great he became one of us fully. At other times, the humanity of Jesus is so emphasized, we lost sight that Jesus is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Use these days to deepen your relationship with Jesus and the Church more fully.
December 17 “O Wisdom”
O Wisdom of our God Most High,
guiding creation with power and love:
come to teach us the path of knowledge!
In the first chapter of John’s gospel, John identifies Jesus as the Word. This is a consistent practice in Scripture. We can never fully understand God, so we seek to talk about God’s attributes. When we do so, it can appear the attribute is separate from God; that there is God and there is the Word. We can make the same mistake when we read in the bible about Wisdom. Because Wisdom is personified, we can think that there is God, and there is Wisdom, and they are distinct. But just as Jesus is the Word and the Word is God, so too God is wisdom.
Yet the attributes of Wisdom cannot exhaust an explanation for God, and so it is easier to speak of Wisdom this way for the point of clarity. So just what is wisdom? Sirach 24 provides an extensive description of the attributes of Wisdom. Not surprisingly, the Book of Wisdom discusses Wisdom, both her attributes and the reward for embracing her. The first ten chapters provide background: to the teaching of Jesus, and the theological understanding of Jesus found in the New Testament. This season of Advent is an invitation to enter more fully into a relationship with God, and to live in a way that embraces the gift and demands of wisdom in our own lives.