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A significant story is still related in the village of Fleury, France, never rebuilt after the artillery and trench warfare of World War I. In the vicinity still stands the Benedictine Abbey, established in 640 A.D., and only shuttered by passing warfare over the centuries; with the withdrawal of Hitler’s menace, it was refounded in 1944 and thrives today.

This significant story, I mentioned, began in the monastery chapel, on the first day of the Christmas octave, in the early 640s. The Abbott, his advisors, and the community of monk and priests were chanting the Hour of Vespers, or evensong.

Anticipation mounted among the consecrated men. A new short prayer or antiphon of the promised Messiah would precede their chanting the Magnificat, the pregnant Mary’s song of praise and joy in her God.

Moments passed. Then, within shivered breathing exploded sacred words drawn from the prophet Isaiah:

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.

As Vespers concluded, the Abbot and his assistants began distributing small gifts to his community and then returned to their Order of Day. Six new antiphons would follow in succeeding days during Vespers and quickly spread throughout European monasteries.

This is one version how The Great “O” Antiphons of Advent came into being, its author’s anonymity purposely veiled. Created in a chaotic world, they speak to ours. There is release, into the sunshine and peace.     

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