St. Thomas Becket’s Martyrdom – The Unfinished Vespers of 29 December 1170

“For the Name of Jesus and the protection of the Church I am ready to embrace death.”  These words, according to an eye-witness account, were spoken by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, as he was hacked to death near the altar of his cathedral on December 29, 1170.  His crime?  He chose to support the rights of the Church, and thus the reign of Christ the King, over his earthly King, and former friend, Henry II.

Frustrated that Becket wouldn’t concede to his demands, which would have eroded the rights of the Church, King Henry is said to have uttered “What sluggards, what cowards have I brought up in my court, who care nothing for their allegiance to their lord. Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest.”  Four knights who heard this traveled from France to Canterbury to carry out what they took to be the king’s command.  They arrived and hid their swords under a tree outside the cathedral, then went inside and tried to get the bishop to come with them.  When he refused, they retrieved their swords and hacked him to death, splitting off part of his skull, as he was walking to the choir for vespers, which was already underway.

Here is an eye-witness account from Edwin Grim, one of the monks, who was hiding near the altar during the murder: Continue reading

O Virgo Virginum

SCALA_ARCHIVES_10310195753

Advent is almost over and we’re ready for Christmas Vespers!  As we anticipate the extraordinary miracle of God become Man and born of a Virgin, we wanted to share this last of the O Antiphons with you.  Fr. Phillips posted it here earlier this week, and we were excited to learn that in the old Sarum rite there was an eighth antiphon in use in medieval England, which can be found in the Ordinariate today.  Here’s a lovely recording of this antiphon being sung at Chichester Cathedral.

O Virgo virginum, quomodo fiet istud? quia nec primam similem visa es, nec habere sequentem. Filiae Jerusalem, quid me admiramini? Divinum est mysterium hoc quod cernitis.

O Virgin of virgins, how shall this be? for neither before thee was any like thee, nor shall there be after. Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me? the thing which ye behold, is a divine mystery.

O Emmanuel (Dec 23)

The O Antiphon for Dec 23 sung by the Cantarte Regensburg.

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, exspectatio gentium, et Salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos Domine Deus noster.

O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Expected of the Nations and their Saviour, come to save us, O Lord our God.

 

A meditation on the antiphon by Fr. Roger Landry

O Emmanuel: “O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The Lord himself will give Continue reading

O Rex Gentium (Dec 22)

The O Antiphon for Dec 22 sung by the Cantarte Regensburg.

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.

O King of the Gentiles and the Desired of them, Thou Cornerstone that dost make both one, come and deliver man, whom Thou didst form out of the dust of the earth.

A meditation on the antiphon by Fr. Roger Landry

O Rex Gentium: “O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.” Isaiah Continue reading

O Oriens (Dec 21)

The O Antiphon for Dec 21 sung by the Cantarte Regensburg.

O Oriens, splendor lucis æternæ, et sol justitiæ: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Dawn of the East, Brightness of the Light Eternal and Sun of Justice, come and enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

A meditation on the antiphon by Fr. Roger Landry

O Oriens: “O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown.” (9:1).

This title is variously translated “morning star”, “Dayspring”, “rising sun”, “radiant dawn”, “orient”. All beautifully express the idea of light shattering the darkness of night, of sin and Continue reading

O Clavis David (Dec 20)

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel; qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Key of David and Sceptre of the house of Israel, Who dost open and no man doth shut, Who dost shut and no man doth open, come and bring forth from his prisonhouse the captive that sitteth in darkness and in the shadow of death.

A meditation on the antiphon by Fr. Roger Landry

O Clavis David: “O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and Continue reading

O Radix Jesse (Dec 19)

The O Antiphon for Dec 19 sung by the Cantarte Regensburg.

O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem Gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

O Root of Jesse, Who dost stand for an ensign of the people, before Whom kings shall keep silence, and unto Whom the Gentiles shall make their supplication: come to deliver us, and tarry not.

A meditation on the antiphon by Fr. Roger Landry

O Radix Jesse: “O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” (11:1), and On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.” (11:10). Remember also that Jesse was the father of King David, and Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be of the house and lineage of David and be born in David’s city, Bethlehem (Micah 5:1).

Isaiah prophesied a restoration of David’s throne — a new branch budding out of the old root. Christ is the root of Jesse in a two-fold sense: he is the descendant of David, who was the youngest son of Jesse, and he inherited the royal throne. The angel foretold to Mary, “The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. He will rule over the house of Jacob forever and his reign will be without end” (Luke 1:32-33). Our hearts more and more urgently cry out for God’s reign to extend over all humanity: “Come, save us, and do not delay”.

Isaiah 52:13, 15; 53:2: “See, my servant shall prosper…So shall he startle many nations, because of him kings shall stand speechless. …He grew up like a sapling before him, like a shoot”.

Isaiah 11:10 On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

Rom. 15:12 and again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope.”

Rev. 5:5 Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

The above meditation was originally posted here.

Post originally published Dec 19, 2013