|Rosehips at St Nicholas Church, Newington, December 2018|
Earlier in December I attended the most welcome Quiet Day reflecting upon the seven 'O Antiphon' prayers or chants, also known as the 'Great Os' and the 'Magnificat Antiphons', led by priest, poet, musician, and chaplain of Girton College Cambridge, Malcolm Guite at The Royal Foundation of St Katharine in Limehouse, London. These prayers, whose origin is unknown but have been existence since at least the 6th Century if not long before, are read through the last seven days of Advent in deep relationship to and either side of Mary's defiant canticle, the Magnificat, sung as she accepted the challenge of birthing and mothering the Holy Child;
"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my soul rejoices in God my Saviour...
He has shown strength with his arm;
He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty."
This is not Mary, meek and mild. This is a fierce call for radical change, not a request but a demand, not a plea but an expectation. As Rachel Held Evans writes in her, 'Mary, the Magnificat, and an Unsentimental Advent'; 'With the Magnificat, Mary declares that God has indeed chosen sides.'
I wrote a little about Mary's subversive prophecy, and how it has inspired many in their fight for justice, in the Novena for the Fallen Through here.
And each of the 'Great Os', written to hold Mary's Magnificat in prayer and power, call in Advent (the time of waiting) to a name of Christ, to one of his attributes written of in Scripture, the first of which is Feminine;
17th December ~ O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
18th December ~ O Adonai (O Lord, O Secret Name)
19th December ~ O Radix (O Root)
20th December ~ O Clavis (O Key)
21st December ~ O Oriens (O Dayspring/O Light) Beautiful indeed for Winter Solstice!
22nd December ~ O Gentium Rex (O King)
23rd December ~ O Emmanuel (God With Us)
These too are songs of longing for what might be, to what is coming to be, to what already is.
You can read Malcolm Guite's tender and powerful poems in response to the 'O Antiphons' beginning here. They are both beautiful and thought-provoking.
And here is mine; my own fierce and defiant call for change, and for a Spirit threaded through with frost and fox-fire.
|Rosehips, Kingsclere, Hampshire. October 2018.|
O Come, as Child of Promise in a rose hip’s seed.
Come, as Child of Edge and Liberty.
Come, as whore, as outcast, refugee.
Come as displaced child in a sinking boat.
Come, homeless in a doorway without a winter coat.
Come, as arms dealer, pimp, and pedlar of Austerity.
O Come, to us so blind we cannot see.
Come, as tyrant and oppressor too.
Teach us that our opposite is not the opposite of you.
O Come, and birth the World Turned Upside Down.
Come, King of Kings who wears a peasant’s crown.
Come, as defiler and defiled,
Come, trailing grace notes as heron wing and wild.
O Come, as fox fur and flame’s flight.
Come, as frost to break our frozen fallows into Light
Come, as darkness birthing mercy’s seed.
Grow through the cracks in every place of avarice and greed.
Let every cell and atom sing in your Key.
Give starling, wren, and sparrow their authority.
Come, as Root of hawthorn and of briar.
O Wildflower Worker Come, as Wisdom’s starving child.
Come, in the places no one thought you would.
Although the ancient stories make it clear.
Take shape in every place of rage and fear.
Come nettle-leaved to cleanse the bitter blood.
O Come, be born with us, in us, and, for Christ’s, sake stay.
Help us see we still have time to go home another way.
(Jacqueline Durban, Advent 2018)
Further reflections on the O Antiphons can be found on Julia Holloway's website at http://www.umilta.net/sophia.html
and Malcolm Guite can be found speaking on 'Waiting on the Word' in Advent at St Paul's Cathedral here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_w8ey2q28ZY&t=74s