O WISDOM, O SAPIENTIA
THE GREAT O ANTIPHONS OF
ulian of Norwich opens her Westminster Cathedral Manuscript
text of the Showing of Love with a Great O, an
Omega, rather than an Alpha, invoking the Great O Antiphon
of Advent, 'O Sapientia', said by Mary worshiping her
not-yet-born Child, tenting within her. The passage is from
the Book of Wisdom, but echoes also Dante's Bernard's use of
this paradox, when worshiping Mary, worshiping Christ, to be
translated by Chaucer for his Second Nun in the Canterbury
Ure gracious & goode/ lorde god shewed me in/ party the wisdom & the trewthe/ of the soule of oure blessed lady/ saynt mary. Where in I under/stood the reuerent beholdynge/ that she beheld her god that is/ her maker. maruelyng with/ grete reuerence that he wolde/ be borne of her that was a/ simple creature of his makyng.
n the English Sarum Use there are eight Great O
Antiphons, ending with an evocation of Calvary, 'O Daughters
of Jerusalem'; in Continental Roman Use, there are only seven.
Hence the date is pushed back one earlier in England, for 'O
Sapientia', etc. The chanted music for these passages, sung by
the full choir, is most beautiful. If any reader can give us a
digital recording of 'O Sapientia' for this web essay we
should be most grateful. It is music Julian likely would have
sung had she been at Benedictine Carrow Priory.
Wisdom, which camest out of the mouth of the most High, and reachest from one end to another, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.
aSapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviter disponensque omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.
aAdonai and Leader of the house of Israel, who appearedst in the Bush of Moses in a flame of fire, and gavest him the law in Sinai: Come and deliver us with an outstretched arm.
Root of Jesse, which standest for an ensign of the people, at whom kings shall shut their mouths, to whom the Gentiles shall seek: Come and deliver us, and tarry not.
aRadix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.
Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel; that openest, and no man shuttests, and shuttest, and no man openeth: come and bring the prisoner out of the prison house, and him that sittest in darkness, and the shadow of death.
aClavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel: qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit: venit, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris et umbra mortis.
Day-Spring, Brightness of Light, everlasting and sun of Righteousness: Come and enlighten him that sitteth in darkness, and the shadow of death.
aOriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris et umbra mortis.
aKing of the Nations, and their Desire; the Cornerstone, who makest both one: Come and save mankind, whom thou formedst of clay.
aRex gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.
Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Desire of all nations, and their Salvation: Come and save us, O Lord our God.
aEmmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, exspectatio gentium, et Salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos Domine Deus noster.
Virgin of Virgins, how shall this be? for neither before thee was any like thee, nor shall there be after: Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me? the thing which ye behold is a divine mystery.
Virgo virginum, quomodo fiet
istud? Quia nec primam similem visa es nec habere sequentem.
Filiae Ierusalem, quid me admiramini? Divinum est mysterium hoc quod cernitis.
In Memory of Andrew Dickson
Hope is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart; it transcends the world that is immediately experienced, and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons . . . It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.
Malcolm Guite 2006/7
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.
I cannot think unless I have been thought
Nor can I speak unless I have been spoken
I cannot teach except as I am taught
Or break the bread except as I am broken.
O Mind behind the mind through which I seek,
O Light within the light by which I see,
O Word beneath the words with which I speak
O founding, unfound Wisdom, finding me
O sounding Song whose depth is sounding me
O Memory of time, reminding me
My Ground of Being, always grounding me
My Maker’s Bounding Line, defining me
Come, hidden Wisdom, come with all you bring
Come to me now, disguised as everything.
Adonai, et Dux domus Israel,
qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti:
Adonai, and leader of the House of
who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and gave him the law on Sinai:
Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm
Unsayable, you chose to speak one tongue
Unseeable, you gave yourself away,
The Adonai, the Tetragramaton
Grew by a wayside in the light of day.
O you who dared to be a tribal God,
o own a language, people and a place,
Who chose to be exploited and betrayed,
If so you might be met with face to face,
Come to us here, who would not find you there,
Who chose to know the skin and not the pith,
Who heard no more than thunder in the air,
Who marked the mere events and not the myth.
Touch the bare branches of our unbelief
And blaze again like fire in every leaf.
Radix Jesse, qui
stas in signum
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem Gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.
Root of Jesse,
stand as a sign
among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us,
and delay no longer
All of us sprung from one deep-hidden seed,
Rose from a root invisible to all.
We knew the virtues once of every weed,
But, severed from the roots of ritual,
We surf the surface of a wide-screen world
And find no virtue in the virtual.
We shrivel on the edges of a wood
Whose heart we once inhabited in love,
Now we have need of you, forgotten Root
The stock and stem of every living thing
Whom once we worshiped in the sacred grove,
For now is winter, now is withering
Unless we let you root us deep within,
Under the ground of being, graft us in.
Key of David
and sceptre of
the House of
you open and no one can shut;
you shut and no one can open:
Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,
those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death
Even in the darkness where I sit
And huddle in the midst of misery
I can remember freedom, but forget
That every lock must answer to a key
That each dark clasp, sharp and intricate,
Must find a counter-clasp to meet its guard.
Particular, exact and intimate,
The clutch and catch that meshes with its ward.
I cry out for the key I threw away
That turned and over turned with certain touch
And with the lovely lifting of a latch
Opened my darkness to the light of day.
O come again, come quickly, set me free
veni, et illumina sedentes
in tenebris, et umbra mortis
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
Paradiso XXX; 61
First light and then first lines along the east
To touch and brush a sheen of light on water
As though behind the sky itself they traced
The shift and shimmer of another river
Flowing unbidden from its hidden source;
The Day-Spring, the eternal Prima Vera.
Blake saw it too. Dante and Beatrice
Are bathing in it now, away upstream…
So every trace of light begins a grace
In me, a beckoning. The smallest gleam
Is somehow a beginning and a calling;
“Sleeper awake, the darkness was a dream
For you will see the Dayspring at your waking,
Beyond your long last line the dawn is breaking”
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,
King of the
the cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
which you fashioned from clay
O King of our desire whom we despise,
King of the nations never on the throne,
Unfound foundation, cast-off cornerstone,
Rejected joiner, making many one,
You have no form or beauty for our eyes,
A King who comes to give away his crown,
A King within our rags of flesh and bone.
We pierce the flesh that pierces our disguise,
For we ourselves are found in you alone.
Come to us now and find in us your throne,
O King within the child within the clay,
O hidden King who shapes us in the play
Of all creation. Shape us for the day
Your coming Kingdom comes into its own.
exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster
the Desire of all nations, and their Salvation:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.