As of the time I am writing this bulletin letter, Richland County is in a Level 4 (purple) Health Advisory. I have been asked if we will continue to celebrate Holy Mass publicly with such a designation. Guidance from the Diocese of Toledo, as was my own inclination, stated that the worship of God is essential for our spiritual (along with mental and emotional) wellbeing, and therefore, we will continue to celebrate Holy Mass publicly. We will continue to practice social distancing, to wear masks, and to practice common sense hygiene in the church. As has always been the case, if you display any symptoms of illness, please stay at home.
We are now at the 4th Sunday of Advent: we are close to Christmas. As is often the case, we have been singing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and other modern versions of it at Mass. It may not be known that the verses of this prominent Advent hymn come from what are known as the “O Antiphons.” What are the O Antiphons? Firstly, an antiphon in general is a short chant, often used as a refrain and usually coming from the Psalms. The O Antiphons are used in Vespers—Evening Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours, the official prayer of the Church, prayed by all priests and deacons—from December 17 to December December 23. Each of these antiphons begins with “O” and then continues with a name or attribute of Christ found in Scripture, particularly the Old Testament. I'll list the O Antiphons with the corresponding day, along with the Latin, which I'll reveal has significance:
December 17: O Wisdom (O Sapientia)
December 18: O Lord (O Adonai)
December 19: O Root of Jesse (O Radix Jesse)
December 20: O Key of David (O Clavis David)
December 21: O Dayspring (O Oriens)
December 22: O King of the Nations (O Rex Gentium)
December 23: O Emmanuel/God is with us (O Emmanuel)
The antiphons are longer than just these titles and attributes, but we certainly recognize these as we sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” These are titles are usually found in the Old Testament prophets foretelling the arrival of the Messiah. These O Antiphons guide us through the waiting for the coming of the Messiah, showing us how God had prepared all of history for the arrival of His Son into the world in the Incarnation.
It is disputed whether the antiphons were intentionally arranged in their order, but if you take the first letter of Latin titles and begin with Emmanuel and go backwards ending with Sapientia, there is an acrostic in Latin: ERO CRAS. ERO CRAS are two Latin words meaning roughly, “I will be there,” or “I will soon arrive.”
Looking to Christmas Masses, remember that we will still rope off every other pew and that some will have to sit in the designated overflow areas. We will see family, friends, and visitors not normally with us at Sunday Mass. Let's remember to smile (even if we're wearing a mask), to be friendly and gracious, and do the best we can in such a strange time. Just as friendly reminder:
Christmas Eve, December 24
3pm – St. Mary of the Snows
5pm – Resurrection
Christmas Day, December 25
8am – Resurrection
10am – St. Mary of the Snows
We are saints under construction, eager awaiting the birth of the Messiah. Words from St. Joan of Arc for us to remember during these strange times: “Do not be afraid. God is with you. You were born for this.” Have a great week and a Merry Christmas!!