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Posts so far this week have focused on the O Antiphon readings for the Octave before Christmas which began December 17 and runs through December 23.

December 24 is the eighth day, and Christmas Eve Vigil readings are used in anticipation of Christmas Day.

If you have missed them, so far, this week’s posts have covered December 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21.

Each day has an O Antiphon connected with it: verses from the Old Testament that foretell the birth of the Christ Child. The O Antiphons date back centuries before the Reformation — to the reign of Charlemagne. That said, Protestants will also find these verses useful in contemplation of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

The O Antiphons spell out SARCORE. These are an aide memoire, because, reversed, they spell out in Latin ero cras, which means

I shall be [with you] tomorrow.

The Bible verses behind SARCORE — ero cras — are as follows:

  1. “O Sapientia, quae ex ore altissimi…” (O Wisdom from on high…)
  2. “O Adonai et dux domus Israel…” (O Lord and leader of the house of Israel…)
  3. “O Radix Jesse qui stas in signum populorum…” (O Root of Jesse who stood as a standard of the people…)
  4. “O Clavis David et sceptrum domus…” (O Key of David and scepter of our home…)
  5. “O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae…” (O Dayspring, splendor of eternal light…)
  6. “O Rex gentium et desideratus…” (O longed-for King of the nations…)
  7. “O Emmanuel, rex et legifer noster…” (O Emmanuel, our king and law-giver…)

Two verses that focus on Jesus as King of the nations are Isaiah 9:6 and Isaiah 2:4, discussed respectively in the following posts for December 22:

The O Antiphon for December 22

December 22: another O Antiphon for this day (2014)

On December 23, we consider Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us, dwelling among us’. Two pertinent verses are Isaiah 7:14 and Isaiah 33:21, explained respectively in the posts below:

The O Antiphon for December 23

December 23: another O Antiphon for this day

I hope the O Antiphon verses and expositions have helped increase our anticipation of Christmas and, more importantly, knowledge of our Lord Jesus.

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Hand of God leedsacukThe ancient tradition of O Antiphons has characterised Vespers recited between December 17 and December 23, during the Octave before Christmas Day.

The Bible readings for these seven days help us to meditate on the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Together, the first letters of these traditional meditations spell SARCORE, which is the reverse of the Latin phrase ero cras, which means

I shall be [with you] tomorrow.

The Bible verses of SARCORE express the following:

  1. “O Sapientia, quae ex ore altissimi…” (O Wisdom from on high…)
  2. “O Adonai et dux domus Israel…” (O Lord and leader of the house of Israel…)
  3. “O Radix Jesse qui stas in signum populorum…” (O Root of Jesse who stood as a standard of the people…)
  4. “O Clavis David et sceptrum domus…” (O Key of David and scepter of our home…)
  5. “O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae…” (O Dayspring, splendor of eternal light…)
  6. “O Rex gentium et desideratus…” (O longed-for King of the nations…)
  7. “O Emmanuel, rex et legifer noster…” (O Emmanuel, our king and law-giver…)

Today’s verse pertains to ‘E’.

My verse last year, taken from ‘The O Antiphons’ page of Hymns and Carols of Christmas, was Isaiah 7:14 (emphases mine):

14Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Another verse for December 23 is Isaiah 33:21:

But there the Lord in majesty will be for us
    a place of broad rivers and streams,
where no galley with oars can go,
    nor majestic ship can pass.

December 18: a second O Antiphon for this day examined Isaiah 33 in more detail. In summary:

Isaiah 33 relates the eventual defeat of the Assyrian army and their king, known for his violent acts and treacherous dealings. As Judah recovered their dependence on God for their salvation, He gave them the strength to bring down their conquerors.

Isaiah prophesied that Jerusalem would emerge triumphant over her enemy once her people had returned to God. Verse 21 speaks of a city which is inviolable. The use of ‘broad rivers and streams’ is figurative here, as Jerusalem has only Kidron brook.

Matthew Henry’s commentary explains:

Jerusalem had no considerable river running by it, as most great cities have, nothing but the brook Kidron, and so wanted one of the best natural fortifications, as well as one of the greatest advantages for trade and commerce, and upon this account their enemies despised them and doubted not but to make an easy prey of them but the presence and power of God are sufficient at any time to make up to us the deficiencies of the creature and of its strength and beauty. We have all in God, all we need or can desire. Many external advantages Jerusalem has not which other places have, but in God there is more than an equivalent. But, if there be broad rivers and streams about Jerusalem, may not these yield an easy access to the fleet of an invader? No these are rivers and streams in which shall go no galley with oars, no man of war or gallant ship. If God himself be the river, it must needs be inaccessible to the enemy they can neither find nor force their way by it.

In other words, the prophet — and the repentant people — hoped for the glory and power of God to run through Jerusalem forevermore, making her unattainable to her enemies.

In the same way, we may consider our Lord Jesus Christ as our ‘broad river and streams’, as His presence is always with us, strengthening us against our enemies.

What a friend and protector we have in Him! May we be forever faithful and thankful!

Hand of God leedsacukThe ancient tradition of O Antiphons has characterised Vespers recited between December 17 and December 23, during the Octave before Christmas Day.

The Bible readings for these seven days help us to meditate on the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Together, the first letters of these traditional meditations spell SARCORE, which is the reverse of the Latin phrase ero cras, which means

I shall be [with you] tomorrow.

The Bible verses of SARCORE express the following:

  1. “O Sapientia, quae ex ore altissimi…” (O Wisdom from on high…)
  2. “O Adonai et dux domus Israel…” (O Lord and leader of the house of Israel…)
  3. “O Radix Jesse qui stas in signum populorum…” (O Root of Jesse who stood as a standard of the people…)
  4. “O Clavis David et sceptrum domus…” (O Key of David and scepter of our home…)
  5. “O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae…” (O Dayspring, splendor of eternal light…)
  6. “O Rex gentium et desideratus…” (O longed-for King of the nations…)
  7. “O Emmanuel, rex et legifer noster…” (O Emmanuel, our king and law-giver…)

Vespers for December 22 reflect on the ‘R’, Rex, or King.

My post for this day last year looked at the principal verse from ‘The O Antiphons’ page of Hymns and Carols of Christmas, Isaiah 9:6:

6 For to us a child is born,
   to us a son is given;
 and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
   and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

A second verse for ‘R’ is Isaiah 2:4, highlighted below. To give a fuller context, I have included the first three verses:

1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

2 It shall come to pass in the latter days
    that the mountain of the house of the Lord
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
    and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,
    and many peoples shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
    to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
    and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go the law,
    and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
    and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
    and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
    neither shall they learn war anymore.

Isaiah’s family history is unclear, outside of the fact that his father’s name was Amoz. However, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary tells us that he was born in Jerusalem and spent his entire life there. He never travelled outside the city walls.

It is little wonder, then, that the city on a hill means so much to him.

Isaiah 2 tells us of three Jerusalems. The first is the Jerusalem of the distant future. From verse 6, the prophet described the prosperous, sinful city under imminent threat by the Assyrians. He ends by foretelling the repentance of the people of Judah. A reading of the Book of Isaiah reveals that once they turned away from sin, God helped them to defeat the Assyrians.

Of today’s verse to contemplate in the approach to Christmas, Matthew Henry’s commentary says (emphases in bold mine):

VI. The great peace which should be the effect of the success of the gospel in the world (Isaiah 2:4): They shall beat their swords into ploughshares their instruments of war shall be converted into implements of husbandry as, on the contrary, when war is proclaimed, ploughshares are beaten into swords, Joel 3:10. Nations shall then not lift up sword against nation, as they now do, neither shall they learn war any more, for they shall have no more occasion for it. This does not make all war absolutely unlawful among Christians, nor is it a prophecy that in the days of the Messiah there shall be no wars. The Jews urge this against the Christians as an argument that Jesus is not the Messiah, because this promise is not fulfilled. But, 1. It was in part fulfilled in the peaceableness of the time in which Christ was born, when wars had in a great measure ceased, witness the taxing, Luke 2:1. 2. The design and tendency of the gospel are to make peace and to slay all enmities. It has in it the most powerful obligations and inducements to peace so that one might reasonably have expected it should have this effect, and it would have had it if it had not been for those lusts of men from which come wars and fightings. 3. Jew and Gentiles were reconciled and brought together by the gospel, and there were no more such wars between them as there had been for they became one sheepfold under one shepherd. See Ephesians 2:15. 4. The gospel of Christ, as far as it prevails, disposes men to be peaceable, softens men’s spirits, and sweetens them and the love of Christ, shed abroad in the heart, constrains men to love one another. 5. The primitive Christians were famous for brotherly love their very adversaries took notice of it. 6. We have reason to hope that this promise shall yet have a more full accomplishment in the latter times of the Christian church, when the Spirit shall be poured out more plentifully from on high. Then there shall be on earth peace. Who shall live when God doeth this? But do it he will in due time, for he is not a man that he should lie.

This is also of interest, regarding the temple and the early Church:

Christ himself began in Galilee, Matthew 4:23; Luke 23:5. But, when he commissioned his apostles to preach the gospel to all nations, he appointed them to begin in Jerusalem, Luke 24:47. See Romans 15:19. Though most of them had their homes in Galilee, yet they must stay at Jerusalem, there to receive the promise of the Spirit, Acts 1:4. And in the temple on Mount Zion they preached the gospel, Acts 5:20. This honour was allowed to Jerusalem, even after Christ was crucified there, for the sake of what it had been. And it was by this gospel, which took rise from Jerusalem, that the gospel church was established on the top of the mountains. This was the rod of divine strength, that was sent forth out of Zion, Psalm 110:2.

What a joyful prophecy and marvellous history for us to contemplate as Christmas draws near!

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