Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Countdown

T:he Lord Jesus Christ, the Wisdom of God -- "O Sapientia!"

We are quickly approaching Christmas Day! Liturgically, we “count down” to Christmas from 17-23 December each year. We use the “O” Antiphons.

Perhaps the hymn that is most associated with Advent is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”. It is based on a 9th century Gregorian chant. It was used by Benedictine monks originally and was initially intended only for the final days of Advent. However, as it became more popularly used in the modern era, it also became extended throughout the Advent Season.

Today is the first of the “O” Antiphons – O, Wisdom! O Sapientia! These antiphons are used as the opening and closing antiphon for the Gospel canticle for Evening Prayer (Vespers), called the Canticle of Mary, or by its Latin name, Magnificat.

In considering one’s vocation in life, it is always important to seek the Lord’s wisdom. The Book of Wisdom from the Old Testament acclaims God’s wisdom. Like the Book of Proverbs, Wisdom is personified. The early Church saw Jesus Christ as the Wisdom of God and used this book as a reference to the Lord Jesus (esp. Wis. 2:12-21). In the Scriptures, wisdom is a hallmark of the person devoted to God; it is a gift from on high (see Isa. 11:2; 1 Cor. 12:8 and Jas. 1:5). And the person who chooses the path of the Lord chooses wisdom; God's Word is wisdom (see Psalm 119) and they who seek it, follow it and live it are wise! Jesus uses this motif when preaching (cf. Matt. 7:24-27).

The quality of wisdom is opposed to folly; that is, wisdom vs. foolishness. Seeking a vocation is basically seeking God’s wisdom in life. “Lord, what do you want me to do?” as opposed to, “Lord, help me do what I want to do!” Such a prayer is by no means passive. Rather, it is an act of trust in the day-to-day happenings of our lives.

As Franciscan friars we seek God’s wisdom for our decisions. But even at a deeper level, like St. Francis of Assisi before the Cross of San Damiano, “Lord, what you have me do?” In his famous Prayer Before the Crucifix, St. Francis asked the Lord for the grace needed (". . . true faith, certain hope and perfect charity, sense and knowledge . . .") to lead a wise life in following the Lord and living for him alone.

We all need to seek God’s wisdom in order to truly live the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a manner that is pleasing to the Father and relying on the power and gifts of the Holy Spirit.

“O Wisdom, you came from the mouth of the Most High,

and reaching from beginning to end,

you ordered all things mightily and sweetly.

Come, and teach us the way of prudence!"

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