The Great 'O’s are part of the tradition of Advent. When the Magnificat is sung at the evening service between 16th December and Christmas Eve, it is accompanied by one of the Great O antiphons. (An antiphon is a short sentence that is said or sung immediately before a canticle or psalm).
The Great O antiphons are based on titles for the Messiah found in Isaiah and their connection with the Magnificat in the days leading up to Christmas is that they praise the one whose birth will be celebrated on Christmas Day – Jesus.
The antiphon for today, 16th December is ‘O Sapientia’, translated as ‘O Wisdom’. The antiphon comes from Isaiah 11.2 where, in the context of the promise of ‘a shoot from shoot from the stem of Jesse, the prophet writes:
‘The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding’
According to the Prophet the Messiah to be born will be guided by the wisdom of God and he will bring peace to the earth. The antiphon praises him in these words:
O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other,
mightily and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.
It seems appropriate that as we draw closer to Christmas, we should pray for prudence for ourselves and for our leaders.