Good Zeal

The Oratory of the Heart

In the previous post, as I wrote about the “oratory of the monastery,” I was aware that the presence of our monastic chapel is part of the circumstances of our particular monastic call. But most of you reading this blog do not have a monastic chapel as part of your home. Or do you? We each have the oratory of our heart, that place of reverent quiet and humble presence in which we sit in silence with God. And although I live with a beautiful chapel just one floor down from my room and one floor up from my workplace, for me, too, the oratory of my heart is the primary place in which I meet God in silence, prayer, and praise.

Tonight in the “oratory of the monastery,” we will sing the first of the ancient O Antiphons. For centuries, these have been sung during Vespers on the seven days leading up to the eve of Christmas. Each of the seven antiphons begins with “O,” is followed by a title of our Lord, and concludes with a plea for our Messiah to come. The texts of the antiphons are rich with scriptural allusions and images, especially from the prophecies of Isaiah.

As the antiphons progress toward the eve of Christmas, so too does the intensity of the plea. Yet to my ears, no plea is more poignant or tender or intense than the simple preface of “O.” It’s as if that one simple word, that solitary syllable, contains both all barrenness and all hope, all poverty and all promise.

In these final days of Advent, as we are busy with many things and many words, may the oratory of our hearts, our interior chapel, resound with silence and expectant wonder, speechless but for the absolute simplicity of the poignant, humble, hope-filled “O.”

December 17th (O Sapientia)
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.

For more information about the beautiful and ancient O Antiphons, or to follow them this week, here is a link.

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