You know we’re well into Advent when O Sapientia is approaching! Our calendar notes its beginning on December 16th, and it runs each evening through the 23rd. For those unaware, O Sapientia is the first several “O antiphons” leading up to Christmas Eve – that is, antiphons that start with the word “O”.
An antiphon is a repeated phrase that is used both at the beginning and end of a Psalm or Canticle. The 2019 Prayer Book only appoints antiphons for one thing: the Venite (Psalm 95) at Morning Prayer. The classical prayer book tradition hasn’t appointed any antiphons for anything. But in general Western tradition, you can find antiphons for everything – every psalm, every canticle, and also most introits and many graduals are constructed with antiphons. The idea is that the psalm or canticle is book-ended with this antiphon to give it a seasonal or occasional context that may perhaps bring out a different aspect or theme or idea in the central text that you might not otherwise notice.
The O Antiphons are used with the Magnificat in Evening Prayer, and the first seven of them address Jesus by different prophetic names: Wisdom, Key of David, Root of Jesse, and so forth. You can read more about them here.
These Antiphons begin on Monday, and count us down the final eight days until Christmas Eve.
Personally, I’ve long wished for a set of Mass Propers (Collects & lessons for a Communion service) for each of these days, but there are just too many interruptions to make it worthwhile: St. Thomas’ Day is always December 21st, the winter Ember Days land in the midst of this week, and at least one Sunday also butts in. It’s a busy time of year, liturgically, not just culturally!
Anyway, if you want to pray the Evening Office with the O Antiphons, this Daily Office website provides for it. Have fun!