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What are the “O Antiphons”?
Catholic Education Resource Center (CERC) ^ | 2000 | William Saunders

Posted on 12/17/2002 6:05:20 AM PST by Salvation

What Are the ’O Antiphons’?   FR. WILLIAM SAUNDERS


Question: What are the “O Antiphons”?

The “O Antiphons” refer to the seven antiphons that are recited (or chanted) preceding the Magnificat during Vespers of the Liturgy of the Hours. They cover the special period of Advent preparation known as the Octave before Christmas, Dec. 17-23, with Dec. 24 being Christmas Eve and Vespers for that evening being for the Christmas Vigil.

The exact origin of the “O Antiphons” is not known. Boethius (c. 480-524) made a slight reference to them, thereby suggesting their presence at that time. At the Benedictine abbey of Fleury (now Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire), these antiphons were recited by the abbot and other abbey leaders in descending rank, and then a gift was given to each member of the community. By the eighth century, they are in use in the liturgical celebrations in Rome. The usage of the “O Antiphons” was so prevalent in monasteries that the phrases, “Keep your O” and “The Great O Antiphons” were common parlance. One may thereby conclude that in some fashion the “O Antiphons” have been part of our liturgical tradition since the very early Church.

The importance of “O Antiphons” is twofold: Each one highlights a title for the Messiah: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Rising Sun), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), and O Emmanuel. Also, each one refers to the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah. Let’s now look at each antiphon with just a sample of Isaiah’s related prophecies :

O Sapientia: “O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” (11:2-3), and “Wonderful is His counsel and great is His wisdom.” (28:29).

O Adonai: “O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.” (11:4-5); and “Indeed the Lord will be there with us, majestic; yes the Lord our judge, the Lord our lawgiver, the Lord our king, he it is who will save us.” (33:22).

O Radix Jesse: “O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” (11:1), and A On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.” (11:10). Remember also that Jesse was the father of King David, and Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be of the house and lineage of David and be born in David’s city, Bethlehem (Micah 5:1).

O Clavis David: “O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.” Isaiah had prophesied, AI will place the Key of the House of David on His shoulder; when he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open.” (22:22), and “His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne, and over His kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever.” (9:6).

O Oriens: “O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown.” (9:1).

O Rex Gentium: “O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.” Isaiah had prophesied, “For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” (9:5), and “He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (2:4) .

O Emmanuel: “O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The Lord himself will give you this sign: the Virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.”

(7:14). Remember “Emmanuel” means “God is with us.”

According to Professor Robert Greenberg of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Benedictine monks arranged these antiphons with a definite purpose. If one starts with the last title and takes the first letter of each one - Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia - the Latin words ero cras are formed, meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come.” Therefore, the Lord Jesus, whose coming we have prepared for in Advent and whom we have addressed in these seven Messianic titles, now speaks to us, “Tomorrow, I will come.” So the “O Antiphons” not only bring intensity to our Advent preparation, but bring it to a joyful conclusion.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Saunders, Rev. William. “What are the ‘O Antiphons’?” Arlington Catholic Herald.

Reprinted with permission of the Arlington Catholic Herald.

THE AUTHOR

Father William Saunders is dean of the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College and pastor of Queen of Apostles Parish, both in Alexandria, Virginia. The above article is a “Straight Answers” column he wrote for the Arlington Catholic Herald. Father Saunders is also the author of Straight Answers, a book based on 100 of his columns and published by Cathedral Press in Baltimore.

Copyright © 2000 Arlington Catholic Herald


ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Saunders, Rev. William. "{title1}." Arlington Catholic Herald.

This article is reprinted with permission from Arlington Catholic Herald.

THE AUTHOR

Father William Saunders is dean of the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College and pastor of Queen of Apostles Parish, both in Alexandria, Virginia. The above article is a "Straight Answers" column he wrote for the Arlington Catholic Herald. Father Saunders is also the author of Straight Answers, a book based on 100 of his columns and published by Cathedral Press in Baltimore.


TOPICS: Activism; Apologetics; Catholic; Charismatic Christian; Eastern Religions; Ecumenism; Evangelical Christian; General Discusssion; History; Ministry/Outreach; Orthodox Christian; Other Christian; Prayer; Religion & Culture; Skeptics/Seekers; Theology; Worship
KEYWORDS: 7days; beforechristmas; catholiclist; oantiphons
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For your information and use between December 17 and December 24!

Pray!

1 posted on 12/17/2002 6:05:20 AM PST by Salvation
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To: Salvation
**According to Professor Robert Greenberg of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Benedictine monks arranged these antiphons with a definite purpose. If one starts with the last title and takes the first letter of each one - Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia - the Latin words ero cras are formed, meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come.” Therefore, the Lord Jesus, whose coming we have prepared for in Advent and whom we have addressed in these seven Messianic titles, now speaks to us, “Tomorrow, I will come.” So the “O Antiphons” not only bring intensity to our Advent preparation, but bring it to a joyful conclusion.**
2 posted on 12/17/2002 6:06:04 AM PST by Salvation
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To: *Catholic_list; father_elijah; nickcarraway; SMEDLEYBUTLER; Siobhan; Lady In Blue; attagirl; ...
December 17 through December 24 -- Pray!

An opportunity to pray as a family or individually.

Prayer Ping!

Please notify me via Freepmail if you would like to be added to or removed from the Prayer Ping list.

3 posted on 12/17/2002 6:07:52 AM PST by Salvation
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To: All
**The importance of “O Antiphons” is twofold: Each one highlights a title for the Messiah: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Rising Sun), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), and O Emmanuel.**
4 posted on 12/17/2002 6:20:32 AM PST by Salvation
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To: Salvation
Oh, to live near a monastery and be able to hear them chanted properly!
5 posted on 12/17/2002 6:23:01 AM PST by NewCenturions
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To: NewCenturions
I live within 30 miles of one, and yes, it is beautiful to hear these chants. Although I haven't been there for many years.
6 posted on 12/17/2002 6:24:48 AM PST by Salvation
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To: Salvation
Thank you
7 posted on 12/17/2002 6:27:59 AM PST by firewalk
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To: Salvation
We did these antiphons as part of a prayer service at the Confirmation Class last Sunday night. They are lovely prayers.
8 posted on 12/17/2002 6:54:51 AM PST by SuziQ
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To: Salvation
We'll add these to our nightly prayers beginning tonight and through Dec. 23rd!
9 posted on 12/17/2002 6:56:22 AM PST by SuziQ
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Comment #10 Removed by Moderator

To: Salvation
Great Post!

I chanted the first "O" antiphon just this morning before proclaiming the Gospel. What a privilege! What a joy!
11 posted on 12/17/2002 7:15:49 AM PST by ThomasMore
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To: Salvation
Thank you very much for this post. I and my family shall use these in our evening prayers for the next seven nights.
12 posted on 12/17/2002 7:21:08 AM PST by AlguyA
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To: Salvation
Here's the chant (and the Latin, for which it was written : )


13 posted on 12/17/2002 7:25:20 AM PST by eastsider
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To: Salvation
Printing out for prayer
14 posted on 12/17/2002 7:39:53 AM PST by Desdemona
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To: Salvation
Wonderful! Thanks for posting this. 8-)
15 posted on 12/17/2002 7:47:59 AM PST by Aquinasfan
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To: Salvation
Great Post! Thank you. A literal translation of "Cras ero"
is not "Tomorrow I will come" but rather "Tomorrow I will be."
16 posted on 12/17/2002 7:50:09 AM PST by Renatus
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To: eastsider
Slick System!!

I have them in the Liber, but couldn't possibly send them over the 'net.
17 posted on 12/17/2002 9:38:07 AM PST by ninenot
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To: Salvation
Thanks for the post, (as always :-)
18 posted on 12/17/2002 1:25:30 PM PST by TotusTuus
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To: SuziQ
It was neat to find them. I too will say them daily.
19 posted on 12/17/2002 10:48:05 PM PST by Salvation
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To: ThomasMore
I had no idea anything like this even existed.

Learning.....imagine that......still learning. LOL!

Now don't get me wrong. I knew there were antiphons Entrance,
Communion, etc.

I just didn't know about special ones during this Christmas tide.
20 posted on 12/17/2002 10:49:55 PM PST by Salvation
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To: AlguyA
**I and my family shall use these in our evening prayers for the next seven nights.**

Way to go. May God bless all of you during the remainder of Advent.
21 posted on 12/17/2002 10:50:46 PM PST by Salvation
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To: eastsider; Desdemona
Wow! Did you scan that? Real music!!!
22 posted on 12/17/2002 10:51:38 PM PST by Salvation
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To: Desdemona
LOL! I just pinged you because eastsider posted real music!!
23 posted on 12/17/2002 10:52:18 PM PST by Salvation
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To: Aquinasfan
You are so welcome. Enjoy them during the last days of Advent.
24 posted on 12/17/2002 10:52:50 PM PST by Salvation
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To: Renatus
Thanks for the translation. They are beautiful prayers, aren't they?
25 posted on 12/17/2002 10:53:32 PM PST by Salvation
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To: TotusTuus
You are so welcome. God bless and have a blessed Christmas.
26 posted on 12/17/2002 10:54:10 PM PST by Salvation
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To: Renatus
Thank you. A literal translation of "Cras ero" is not "Tomorrow I will come" but rather "Tomorrow I will be."

Echoes of the Hebrew "Y-hw-h" (lit. "I will be")? This form is the imperfect, i.e., not completed. Biblical Hebrew doesn't have an actual present tense, only perfect (corresponding roughly to past) and imperfect (corresponding roughly to future); what serves as a present tense in modern Hebrew is actually a participial form.

27 posted on 12/18/2002 3:08:05 AM PST by maryz
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To: eastsider
Beautiful! Thank you.
28 posted on 12/18/2002 3:09:15 AM PST by maryz
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To: Salvation
I had no idea anything like this even existed.

There is so much beauty and richness in the Church. I wish they would bring back Gregorian Chant. It is the foundation of musical praise.

29 posted on 12/18/2002 5:51:21 AM PST by ThomasMore
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To: Salvation; Desdemona; maryz; ninenot
Good morning! First, I found a site with the music, then I right clicked, copied the "Properties" (...gif), and pasted it as a picture:

< img src="PASTE URL HERE">

BTW, I don't know if you noticed, but the chant for each of the O Antiphons is the same; only the text changes.

Blessed Advent to all, and to all a good day : )

30 posted on 12/18/2002 6:59:00 AM PST by eastsider
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To: ThomasMore
I wish they would bring back Gregorian Chant. It is the foundation of musical praise.

Amen! I can think of no other music form that can stir the soul like the Gregorian Chant.

31 posted on 12/18/2002 7:22:36 AM PST by pegleg
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To: ThomasMore
There's a German composer (late 19th/early 20th century) who stated unequivocally that Chant was the foundation of Western music, period.

It has also been described as THE song of the Church and as a major part of the music of the spheres.

It has been described, by Ratzinger, as the 'enfleshment' of the Word, Christ.

THAT'S why Bugnini and Weakland the Vandal wanted to get rid of it. Ironic that now it's a cult-top-40 item in many music stores, and more appreciated by Prots at UCLA and elsewhere than in seminaries and convents.
32 posted on 12/18/2002 9:05:08 AM PST by ninenot
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To: eastsider
Ah, great. What was the site with the music???

Inquiring minds want to know.
33 posted on 12/18/2002 9:07:48 AM PST by ninenot
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To: eastsider; Desdemona
NEVER MIND my last post. Used your trick, r-clicked, found the URL source. Went to the home on the site, back to "life" tab, and also discovered that it's recorded in MIDI format so that one with the equipment can HEAR it too.

BTW, a friend of mine who ought to know is rather suspicious of quite a few of the Chicago Province Dominicans.
34 posted on 12/18/2002 9:14:33 AM PST by ninenot
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To: ninenot
I remember seeing a video of an older Dominican from that province in the early 90's warning young men discerning a vocation to the Priesthood to NOT go there for similar sentiments. I also heard an Eastern Province Dominican jokingly refer to the Southern Province Dominicans as establishing Wednesdays as "wear your Habit day - with or without earrings". The English and Eastern Province Dominicans seem orthodox. What is happening to the rest? I know the Western Province fairly well, and well, they come from Berkeley (okay, Oakland - close enough!). 'Nuff said.
35 posted on 12/18/2002 9:28:25 AM PST by TotusTuus
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To: ninenot
It has also been described as THE song of the Church and as a major part of the music of the spheres.

The documents of Vatican II have nice things to say about Gregorian Chant and Polyphony (sp?) music as well. Something about it being the heritage of the Church and all that.

Funny that those who seem to think that they expertly have the "pulse" of the "spirit of the Council" never acknowledge these statements.

36 posted on 12/18/2002 9:36:42 AM PST by TotusTuus
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To: TotusTuus; ninenot
Funny that those who seem to think that they expertly have the "pulse" of the "spirit of the Council" never acknowledge these statements.

And brook no argument either. Just TRY on Pentecost to get a music director other than ninenot to sing Veni Creator Spiritus in Latin. It's absolutely lovely. And "Pange Lingua" on Holy Thursday.

I feel so deprived.
37 posted on 12/18/2002 9:40:10 AM PST by Desdemona
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To: ninenot
There's a German composer (late 19th/early 20th century) who stated unequivocally that Chant was the foundation of Western music, period.
Gregorian chant is indeed the foundation of Western music. It was imported to the Holy Roman Empire by Charlemagne at the beginning of the 9th century as part of the acculturation of his kingdom. Eventually, other voices were added, and the rest is history.
38 posted on 12/18/2002 9:49:10 AM PST by eastsider
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To: TotusTuus
I remember seeing a video of an older Dominican from that province in the early 90's warning young men discerning a vocation to the Priesthood to NOT go there [Chicago Province Dominicans] for similar sentiments.
'And whatever you do, stay away from Zombie Island, laddie!"
39 posted on 12/18/2002 9:59:32 AM PST by eastsider
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To: nickcarraway; sandyeggo; Siobhan; Lady In Blue; NYer; american colleen; Pyro7480; livius; ...
About the "Great O's"

On the evening of December 17 the final phase of preparation for Christmas begins with the first of the great "O Antiphons" of Advent. These prayers are seven jewels of liturgical song, one for each day until Christmas Eve. They seem to sum up all our Advent longing for the Savior.

The "O Antiphons" are intoned with special solemnity in monasteries at Vespers, before and after the Magnificat, Mary's prayer of praise and thanksgiving from the Gospel of Luke (2:42-55), which is sung every evening as the climax of this Hour of the Divine Office.

A vestige of the "Great Os" can be seen in verses of the familiar Advent hymn, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel".

Families interested in the liturgy have discovered these gems of liturgical poetry and use them in their evening prayers. An "O Antiphon House" -- similar to an Advent Calendar -- can be made, with seven windows, each concealing an appropriate symbol for the different "O Antiphons", and an eighth window hiding the Nativity scene. As with an Advent calendar, one window is opened each day.

The sublime meditation of the "Great Os" would be excellent for families with children who have outgrown the Jesse Tree or Advent calendar. In any case, they are beautiful additions to your family prayers in the days just before Christmas. And they form part of the classic Christmas Novena.

The "O Antiphons" appear below in English translation, with scriptural sources and suggested symbols.


The "O Antiphons"

O WISDOM, who came from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: Come, and teach us the way of prudence.
Sirach 24:2; Wisdom 8:1. Symbols: oil lamp, open book.

O LORD AND RULER of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the flame of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: Come, and redeem us with outstretched arm.
Exodus 3:2, 20:1. Symbols: burning bush, stone tablets.

O ROOT OF JESSE, who stands for an ensign of the people, before whom kings shall keep silence and unto whom the Gentiles shall make supplication: Come to deliver us, and tarry not.
Isaiah 11:1-3. Symbol: vine or plant with flower (especially a rose).

O KEY OF DAVID, and Scepter of the House of Israel, who opens and no man shuts, who shuts and no man opens: Come, and bring forth the captive from his prison, he who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Isaiah 22:22. Symbols: key; broken chains.

O DAWN OF THE EAST, brightness of the light eternal, and Sun of Justice: Come, and enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Psalm 19:6-7. Symbol: rising sun.

O KING OF THE GENTILES and their desired One, the Cornerstone that makes both one: Come, and deliver man, whom You formed out of the dust of the earth.
Psalm 2:7-8, Ephesians 2:14-20. Symbols, Crown, scepter.

O EMMANUEL, God with us, our King and Lawgiver, the expected of the nations and their Savior: Come to save us, O Lord our God.
I
saiah 7:14; 33:22. Symbols: tablets of stone, Chalice and Host.


Adapted from Celebrating Advent and Christmas ­ A Sourcebook for Families

40 posted on 12/15/2005 8:56:04 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation

Do you have a source for the use of the book for the Liturgy of the Hours? I have one, but I can't understand what day is what, and what portions to go to. (I am a real novice at this, if you remember.) Thanks!


41 posted on 12/16/2005 2:15:28 AM PST by Miss Marple (Lord, please look after Mozart Lover's son and keep him strong.)
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To: Miss Marple
Universalis Today has the Office of Readings, Mass Readings, Morning and Evening Prayer for each day. Plus some instructions.

Here's a good website that explains the structure: Liturgy of the Hours.

Hope this helps.

42 posted on 12/16/2005 4:43:10 AM PST by Carolina
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To: Salvation
Thank you for posting this wonderful information once again.

One of my favorite settings of these magnificent antiphons is by Arvo Part, from his "Berlin Mass" recording available from www.musicalheritage.com

43 posted on 12/16/2005 5:09:31 AM PST by lightman (The Office of the Keys should be exercised as some ministry needs to be exorcised.)
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To: Miss Marple
You can get the Annual Guide for the Liturgy of the Hours available from Catholic Book Publishers, the publisher of the Breviary. Just make sure to order the appropriate one for the book set you own. You can get a pretty good list of the propers from this calendar online, as well.

After you do it for a while, you'll find that the only time you need the guide is to keep track of which proper to use n the event of a feast/ memorial (and all that info is in the front of the book, also).

Reciting the Divine Office is a tremendous blessing, not only for yourself, but for the whole Church. In doing so, you unite your prayers in a material way with those of the rest of the Universal Church. It would be nice if more folks would take 10-15 minutes in the morning and evening to do Lauds and Vespers (at least). Not that much time and it really tunes a person in to the awareness of God in their lives.

44 posted on 12/16/2005 5:33:25 AM PST by markomalley (Vivat Iesus!)
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To: markomalley

Thank you! I will look into those sites. It is very frustrating to want to do this and not be able to figure out the proper prayers!


45 posted on 12/16/2005 5:46:08 AM PST by Miss Marple (Lord, please look after Mozart Lover's son and keep him strong.)
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To: Salvation

Thanks for the symbol suggestions. The kids have been working on O Antiphon ornaments to hang on the Jesse tree each evening of the Greater Ferias while we light the wreath. The list will give me a hand of they get stuck on what to make!


46 posted on 12/16/2005 5:50:19 AM PST by Nora
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To: Miss Marple

I've just started (one month ago) as well. I have the "Shorter Christian Prayer" book and it does take some getting used to. Just check in every morning at the Universalis site to make sure you're on 'the same page' so to speak.


47 posted on 12/16/2005 6:27:09 AM PST by LisaFab
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To: markomalley

**Annual Guide for the Liturgy of the Hours **

That would something all of us might be interested in!


48 posted on 12/16/2005 6:49:48 AM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: Salvation

Catholic Bump


49 posted on 12/16/2005 6:59:03 AM PST by Baraonda (Demographic is destiny. Don't hire 3rd world illegal aliens nor support businesses that hire them.)
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To: Salvation

The annual guide is just a listing of the psalter and propers for each of the hours during the year. Still have to have the 4-volume Breviary set or the one-volume "Christian Prayer" book. I'm sure you know that Salvation, but I don't want anybody else to get the wrong idea about it.


50 posted on 12/16/2005 7:05:56 AM PST by markomalley (Vivat Iesus!)
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