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Music for Rorate Coeli-Fourth Sunday in Advent

Come, then, O Lord Jesus   The ENTRANCE HYMN, “Once He Came in Blessing” (333), sings of our vocation here on earth— “Let us here confess You” — while we await our Lord’s calling us to heaven: “Till in heaven we bless You.”  Author Johann Roh (d. 1547) was a pastor in Jungbunzlau, Bohemia (Czech Republic) and later a bishop.  He edited both a German and a Bohemian hymnal.  His hymn directs us clearly to the work of God’s Son to release us from our sins.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel   The HYMN OF THE DAY, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” (357) is based on the seven “O Antiphons” (see article on facing page) that are used with the Magnificat during the Office of Vespers for the last seven days of Advent.  They bid our Lord “Come!” using seven different prophetic Names for the promised Messiah. The text of the antiphons is found on the same page as the hymn in Lutheran Service Book.

In the thirteenth century, an anonymous author composed the antiphons into a verse form and added the refrain.  In 1966, the source of the plainsong tune Veni Emmanuel was discovered to be a fifteenth-century French Processional used by Franciscan nuns.

O Love, beyond all telling   The HYMN TO DEPART, “O Lord, How Shall I Meet You” (334) is Paul Gerhardt’s Advent hymn.  The love of God is personified in Jesus in stanza 4: a love beyond all telling “that led Him to embrace, In love, all love excelling, Our lost and fallen race.”  In humility and meekness, Our Lord comes to His people as He became flesh.  In this hope and consolation, we approach the end of this Advent season. We look for our Lord’s Second Coming: “O glorious Sun, now come, Send forth Your beams so cheering, And guide us safely home.”

The “O Antiphons”

The seven great “O Antiphons” are sung before and after the Magnificat (Mary’s Song) at the Divine Office of Vespers (the church’s evening prayer) beginning on December 17.  They bid our Lord “Come!” using seven different prophetic Names for the promised Messiah:

  • Wisdom (Sapienta) Isaiah 11.2-3; Proverbs 8.12; 9.1; 1 Corinthians 1.24
  • Lord (Adonai) Isaiah 2.5; 9.6-7
  • Root (Radix) of Jesse Isaiah 11.1,10
  • Key (Clavis) of David Isaiah 9.6; 22.22
  • Rising Sun (Oriens) Isaiah 9.1; 59.19
  • King of Nations (Rex Gentium) Isaiah 2.4; 9.6-7
  • Emmanuel Isaiah 7.14.

Benedictine monks of the seventh century arranged the antiphons so that the first letter of each in reverse order spells ERO CRAS (Latin: “Tomorrow I will come”).

Today’s VOLUNTARY is a setting by Healey Willan (1880-1968) of the O Antiphon for today, December 20, O Clavis David (“O Key of David”).

O Key of David and Scepter of the house of Israel, who openest doors and none can shut them,

who closest portals and none can open them, come and from his cell lead forth the captive who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death.

The lessons are Deuteronomy 18.15–19; Philippians 4.4–7; and St. John 1.19–28.
The hymns are: 333 Once He Came in Blessing
357 O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
335 O Bride of Christ, Rejoice
332 Savior of the Nations, Come
356 The Angel Gabriel from Heaven Came
334 O Lord, How Shall I Meet You
Prelude: Savior of the Nations, Come (BWV 659) – J.S. Bach

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