'Let's party'

Wednesday Reflection

16th December 2020

'there is a season'

'O come, O come, Emmanuel'
Do you know the origins
of the pre-Christmas party?

Victorian or perhaps Elizabethan?
No! the origins go back much,
much further than that;
to the monks and nuns
of olden times.

I was reading through
one of my Advent meditation
books and came up with
these wonderful facts.

One Advent tradition with
very deep historical roots
is the idea that there is
a season within a season.,
from 16 or 17 December to 23 December.

This is the season of
the Great 'O' Antiphons.

That is when the monks
and nuns of old sang their
daily evening prayers.

They had a special phrase
to include before and after
they recited the Magnificat.
This tradition continues today
in monastic houses,
some churches and cathedrals.

Each antiphon is based on one
of the titles of the Messiah;
familiar to many Christians
who have never even
heard of antiphons,
from the hymn,
'O come, O come, Emmanuel.

From a description of early life
at a Benedictine ministry
found in Durham cathedral ,
called 'The Rites of Durham',
we learn that it was the duty
of one of the senior monks
to recite one particular antiphon.

It may be surprising to find out
that those monks had
a sense of humour -
so it was the gardener
who sang on the day of
the 'Root of Jesse';
the Provost sang on
the day of 'King of the Nations',
and the Treasurer sang
on the day of 'Key of David'.

This custom was called
'keeping their 'O's.
The 'O' antiphons
have always been something
to spark the wit and
imagination of Christians.

Their second duty was to
host a party in the nice warm
common room (the calefactory).
Yes the pre-Christmas party,
although frowned upon
by certain clergy,
have long been part of
the life of the Church
in the latter part of Advent.

However, before this is taken as
permission for wild revelry
and self-indulgence.
The Rites of Durham are careful
to say that these little banquets
of dates, and raisins,
ale and cakes, involved
'no superfluity or excesses
but a scholastical and
moderate congratulac'.

(Yes that is a direct quote, and no,
I don't know what it means either!)

amongst themselves.'

And a further note adds
that the occasion should be
'a very moderate one
without superfluity.'

So when we sing
'O come, O come, Emmanuel'
we can think of all those monks
and nuns singing their antiphons
and looking forward to a party
with good food and drink
waiting for then back
in the common room after
the service was over.



Meaning of antiphon in English:
1 (in traditional Western Christian liturgy)
a short sentence sung or recited
before or after a psalm or canticle.

'The way the monks moved echoed
the antiphons of the psalms themselves.'

More example sentences
1.1 A musical setting of an antiphon.
'Early Elizabethan anthems
were modelled on the Latin
antiphon or motet,
but they cautiously followed
the queen's injunction by
being largely syllabic,
with a minimum of counterpoint.'