O Sapientia an Advent Antiphon

Image by Linda richardson

Image by Linda Richardson

The poem I have chosen for December 17th in my Advent Anthology from Canterbury Press Waiting on the Word, is my own sonnet O Sapientia, the first in a sequence of seven sonnets on the seven ‘great O’ antiphons which I shall be reading to you each day between now and the 23rd of December. You can hear me read this poem by clicking on the title or the play button. the image above, was created by Linda Richardson for her book of responses to Waiting on the Word.

Linda writes:

If you have never heard Malcolm talking about the O antiphons you are missing a treat. You can hear a recording of him speaking at St Paul’s Cathedral here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_w8ey2q28ZY&t=74s.

My response to the sonnet, ‘O Sapientia’, is a great ‘O’ of my own. The back ground of the painting is a photo transfer of a sheet of plainsong that the monks will sing every year at this time in Advent. I gave that a wash of gesso, and using a Chinese brush made a very energetic sweep in black ink and added some red too. Around the outside and inside I wrote out the words in Latin and in English, which are quite beautiful.

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 (Wisdom). The words of this antiphon have a powerfully uplifting effect on me.

You can find you can find a short reflective essay on this poem in Waiting on the Word, which is now also available on Kindle

In the first centuries the Church had a beautiful custom of praying seven great prayers calling afresh on Christ to come, calling him by the mysterious titles he has in Isaiah, calling to him; O Wisdom. O Root! O Key  O Light! come to us! This is the first of them

Also check out the wonderful resources on the Advent Antiphons and aother mediaeval Wisdom on Julia Holloway’s beautiful website  The Great O Antiphons

O Sapientia

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

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.


O Sapientia

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.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “O Sapientia an Advent Antiphon

  1. RonniLamont

    Lovely 😊

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  2. That sonnet is a “double wow!”. Thank you!

  3. Charis Varnadore

    Love the poem. Although I no longer consider myself a poet, the last line of your poem reminds me of a simple phrase on which I wil work on later, but it is something like “Once you walk through the opened door with opened eyes, you will surely see that all creation is permeated with the Grace of God.” As I said, I may work on this later. And, Grace has become so important in my life these past several years that I feel I MUST capitalize it every time I use it. Your daily e’mail has become a part of my morning devotions and reflections. Charis Varnadore
    Pawleys Island, SC

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  5. Grateful to own your collections for Advent, Lent, and all the seasons of the year. Although I missed you when you came to Grove City College years ago, I have been blessed by your work ever since friends of mine shared your work with me. You are part of our dinner discussions this season especially, as the ten of us (from 7 to 81 years-old) share the feast of your reflections. Especially blessed by this poem last night. Thank you for reminding us of the need to shuffle off familiarity with our Savior and to see with fresh eyes what it was like BC. (Vincent, Grove City, PA)

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