This Thursday, December 17, the Church will begin praying what are known as the “O Antiphons” each evening during Vespers, or Evening Prayer. Outside of Vespers, the O Antiphons are more familiar in their adapted form as the verses for the quintessential Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”
Over the last three years, I have been working with the Archdiocese of San Francisco, addressing the quality of Eucharistic celebration in their schools. Almost universally, school leaders, especially at secondary institutions, recognize that all-school Masses are rarely occasions of prayer for faculty or students. Here are three questions for schools in this situation to consider.
In times of crisis, people often—rightly—turn to prayer. When confronted with the very real limitations of humanity, the natural response for many is to cry out to God for protection, for rescue, for comfort. At times, though, it can be difficult to find words to articulate these cries for help. Indeed, we may feel helpless in the face of it all. When that happens, the liturgy of the Church and the words of Scripture provide a lifeline to God. By giving ourselves over to the Word of God and the prayer of the Church, we are freed from the burden of trying to speak for ourselves when our hearts are heavy and our minds are weary, and we are united by the grace of the Holy Spirit to our brothers and sisters across time and space—indeed, united with Jesus Christ himself—by making these words our own as they did.
Since beginning my work as a high school theology teacher, I have had the privilege and burden of seeking to discover Christ in the places I inhabit, and the eyes of those I teach. It did not take long for me to realize that this is easier said than done! Acknowledging my struggle to recognize God’s presence in my daily life, I decided to take up a spiritual practice to ground my day. I started praying the Liturgy of the Hours—specifically Morning and Night Prayer—and quickly found myself immersed in the Psalms.
Tomorrow, the Church will begin praying what are known as the “O Antiphons” each evening during Vespers, or Evening Prayer. Outside of Vespers, the O Antiphons are more familiar in their adapted form as the verses for the quintessential Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”