Come, O Wisdom

Christians throughout the ages have spent the final week of Advent singing, praying, and reflecting upon the seven great O Antiphons. These ancient verses have been captured in the lyrics of the great hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel, but existed far before the hymn itself.

These O Antiphons describe to us more fully who it is that we anticipate during Advent.

Yes, “God with Us” is coming afresh on Christmas this year; but Jesus is always far more than we imagine him to be. Each of the seven O Antiphons capture just a bit more of who Jesus was and is, and what he offers to bring when he comes to us.

December 18: O Sapientia (Wisdom)
December 19: O Adonai (Lord)
December 20: O Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse)
December 21: O Clavis David (Key of David)
December 22: O Oriens (Dayspring)
December 23: O Rex Gentium (King of the Nations)
December 24: O Emmanuel (With Us is God)

But here is where it gets fascinating.

These seven antiphons, when reading backwards from Christmas Eve, form an accrostic: ero cras, which is latin for "Tomorrow, I will come."

So today we begin this seven day journey with our first Antiphon: O Sapientia. Below is the text of the ancient verse, the text of the modern hymn, and a poetic response to this verse by Malcolm Guite.

O Sapientia

Latin Text

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,

attingens a fine usque ad finem,

fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:

veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

English Translation

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,

reaching from one end to the other mightily,

and sweetly ordering all things:

Come and teach us the way of prudence.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel Adaptation

O come, O Wisdom from on high,

who ordered all things mightily;

to us the path of knowledge show

and teach us in its ways to go.

A Poetic Response, by Fr. Malcolm Guite

O Sapientia / O Wisdom

I cannot think unless I have been thought,

Nor can I speak unless I have been spoken.

I cannot teach except as I am taught,

Or break the bread except as I am broken.

O Mind behind the mind through which I seek,

O Light within the light by which I see,

O Word beneath the words with which I speak,

O founding, unfound Wisdom, finding me,

O sounding Song whose depth is sounding me,

O Memory of time, reminding me,

My Ground of Being, always grounding me,

My Maker’s Bounding Line, defining me,

Come, hidden Wisdom, come with all you bring,

Come to me now, disguised as everything.