Friday, December 17, 2021

O Sapientia 2021

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Wisdom, that comest from the mouth of the Most High, that reachest from one end to another, mightily and sweetly ordering all things, come and teach us the way of prudence.

A icon of Holy Wisdom from Mstyora, Russia, 1860
Many years ago, I stumbled across a book which described a very charming medieval custom, by which the O antiphons were assigned to different members of a cathedral chapter or monastic community, connecting the first words of the antiphons with various positions within the house. One version is given by a post from nine years ago on the blog A Clerk of Oxford. “The right of intoning one of the O Antiphons was jealously limited by immemorial custom to certain higher officers in the community and each of these great functionaries had his own appropriate antiphon. In most monasteries, the antiphon O Sapientia (O Wisdom) was reserved to the Abbot and O Adonai to the Prior. Some antiphons were intoned by the obedientiary or functionary most closely associated with the theme of the antiphon: O Radix Jesse was reserved to the gardener, O Clavis David to the cellarer whose duty it was to keep things under lock and key, and O Rex Gentium to the infirmarian, since the antiphon contained the clause, ‘Come and save (or heal) man whom you have formed out of clay.’ ” If memory serves, O Sapientia might also be given to the cathedral schoolmaster, and O Emmanuel to one of the boy choristers. If anyone knows more about this custom, or can point to a reference that gives more information, please be so kind as to leave a note in the combox. Prope est jam Dominus: venite, adoremus!

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