About Antiphons
carving of the Magi from the Romanesque Cathedral of Saint Lazare/Autun
carving of the Magi from the Romanesque Cathedral of Saint Lazare/Autun

Sophie is suddenly keenly interested in antiphons. One morning shortly before Christmas she came to me to ask a question about why the antiphon for the invitatory psalm changes. (Even if we don’t make it through Morning Prayer, I often at least listen to that as a way to start the day.) So I explained to her how there is a different antiphon each day in the four week cycle and how they also change through the liturgical seasons and how there are special ones for feast days, etc. I pulled out my breviary and read her a bunch of them. Now every morning we discuss the day’s antiphon.

And since we were doing the O Antiphons for the last days of Advent, I decided to include each day’s Magnificat antiphon for our dinnertime candle lighting. And so we discuss what that means as well. A very small way to get a bit more prayer and liturgy into our days and a way to make each saint’s celebration a bit more concrete.

Now through the Christmas season she’s been paying attention, noting the various antiphons of the day, smiling at the ones she likes and even repeating them to herself or noting them to me. And there are some of the best antiphons in this season, a great reward for her effort.

I wish I could list them all; but the antiphon for the Canticle of Zechariah in today’s Morning Prayer is one of my favorites:

Today the Bridegroom claims his bride, the Church, since Christ has washed her sins away in Jordan’s waters; the Magi hasten with their gifts to the royal wedding; and the wedding guests rejoice, for Christ has changed water into wine, alleluia.

It is so very rich and reminds me again why today’s feast, the Epiphany, is one of my favorites. It’s more than just kings bearing gifts and the recognition that his kingship is not only over Israel but over all the nations. More, it’s also the fullness of the revelation of who Christ is: not only his kingship but his sonship and his divinity. The baptism in the Jordan is the moment of revelation in which Christ is declared to be the Lamb and the Wedding at Cana is his first miracle and points to Christ as the long-awaited bridegroom. I love that image of the Magi as wedding guests, bringing their gifts to the feast. I love the chance to share this richness with my children, this richness which we would miss if all we did was go to Mass and read those readings.

When people ask me what I use for religious ed curriculum, I usually tell them about the catechism books we have and that we read saints stories and Bible stories. But I usually forget to mention what I consider the true cornerstone of my program: the divine office. Praying at least some of the Liturgy of the Hours most days helps make our home into a true domestic church, it often prompts discussions about our faith, it makes our faith something we live and not just something we study. It is how I strengthen my own relationship with Christ and help my children to develop theirs. I love it when I overhear my children saying phrases from the office because I know they are starting to make it their own, that we are all living our lives– at least a little– according to that divine rhythm.

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