O, How We Are Loved!

December 16, 2021
Thursday of the Third week in Advent

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we stand on the edge of the magnificent “O Antiphons”!

Tomorrow, December 17th, we will enter one of the loveliest times of the Liturgical Year – the proclamation of these powerfully beautiful verses leading us to Christmas.

The great O Antiphons are Magnificat verses used at Vespers on the last seven days of Advent. They are also used as the Alleluia verse on the same days. The importance of the O Antiphons is twofold.

  • First, each one is a title for the Messiah.
  • Second, each one refers to Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming of the Messiah.

Each year, as I prepare for this sacred interval,
I am reminded of an old family story.
I have written about it before,
and I hope those of you who have heard it
won’t mind hearing it again.


Aunt Peg on Her Wedding Day to Uncle Frank – 1929

I so loved my great-aunt Peg. She was that perfect mix of elegance and earthiness that both comforted and inspired.

Her husband, Uncle Frank, loved her totally. And to boot, he was a romantic which led him to proclaim that love often. One summer, in the 1950s, he surprised her with a second honeymoon trip to Niagara Falls.

Upon return, they visited us and Uncle Frank brought a movie of their trip.


camera

Now, taking a movie and eventually showing it was quite an accomplishment in the ‘50s. Not only were the camera and lights cumbersome, so was the screening equipment.

But that effort on my Uncle Frank’s part yielded a long-lasting blessing for me. It came in a brief scene still indelibly etched on my mind.


Aunt Peg, dressed in her Sunday best, stood looking over the rail at the majestic falls, her back to the camera. There was no sound on the film, but you could tell Uncle Frank had called to her to turn around. Knowing him, my guess was that he said something like, “Peg, you are as beautiful as the falls!”.

Aunt Peg turns and clearly, despite the silent film, mouths a bashful response,

“O, Frank!”.

Those two words, given with a slight blush and demure smile, carried the whole story of their very special love. They were, in a sense, my Aunt Peg’s “O Antiphon”. And they left me, even at a young age, with such a profound message.


Every time I have thought of that short phrase over these nearly 70 years, this is what I hear:

O, Frank!

  • how blessed am I to be so loved
  • how good you are to show that love so clearly
  • how grateful I am that you share your life with me
  • please know how much I love you in return

As we prepare for this beautiful and sacred time, I once again think of my dear Aunt Peg standing in the glory of both the magnificent Falls and my Uncle Frank’s tremendous love.

We, dear friends, are standing in awe at the passage of time into eternity. Our God calls to us to turn around and look into God’s loving face. As we pause in silent, grateful adoration, the roaring thunder of life silenced behind us, we respond with awe:

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

As we approach the opening of these profound prayers, let’s prepare our hearts to experience God’s tremendous love.

O Beloved God

  • how blessed am I to be so loved
  • how good you are to show that love so clearly
  • how grateful I am that you share your life with me
  • please know how much I love you in return

Poetry: O Emmanuel – Malcolm Guite

O come, O come, and be our God-with-us
O long-sought With-ness for a world without,
O secret seed, O hidden spring of light.
Come to us Wisdom, come unspoken Name
Come Root, and Key, and King, and holy Flame,
O quickened little wick so tightly curled,
Be folded with us into time and place,
Unfold for us the mystery of grace
And make a womb of all this wounded world.
O heart of heaven beating in the earth,
O tiny hope within our hopelessness
Come to be born, to bear us to our birth,
To touch a dying world with new-made hands
And make these rags of time our swaddling bands.

Music: O Divine Redeemer – Charles Gounod, sung by Jessye Norman

I have included the English lyrics below, although they are a little heavy for my purposes today. It is the beautiful imploring voice of Ms. Norman that I hope you will focus on as you play this music. The lyrics are really immaterial.

Ah, turn me not away, receive me though unworthy.
Ah, turn me not away, receive me though unworthy.
Hear Thou my cry, hear Thou my cry,
Behold, Lord, my distress!
Answer me from Thy throne,
Haste Thee, Lord, to mine aid!
Thy pity show in my deep anguish, Thy pity show in my deep anguish.
Let not the sword of vengeance smite me,
Though righteous Thine anger, O Lord!

Shield me in danger, O regard me!
On Thee, Lord, alone will I call!

O divine Redeemer, O divine Redeemer!
I pray thee grant me pardon, And remember not
Remember not my sins!
Forgive me!

O divine Redeemer! I pray Thee, grant me pardon
And remember not, remember not, O Lord, my sins!

Night gathers round my soul
Fearful, I cry to Thee,
Come to mine aid, O Lord!
Haste Thee, Lord, haste to help me!

Hear my cry, hear my cry
Save me, Lord in Thy mercy;
Hear my cry, hear my cry!
Come and save me, O Lord!

O divine Redeemer! O divine Redeemer!
I pray Thee, grant me pardon, and remember not
Remember not, O Lord, my sins!

Save in the day of retribution
From death shield Thou me, O my God!
O divine Redeemer, have mercy!
Help me Savior! 

3 thoughts on “O, How We Are Loved!

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