Learning From the O Antiphons, by C. C. Pecknold

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By C. C. Pecknold, First Things, 12 . 18 . 20

C. C. Pecknold is Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at The Catholic University of America.

St. Anne came to my wife in a dream once. The grandmother of Jesus gently touched my wife’s abdomen, and told her that she was having a girl—weeks before our doctor could tell us the same.

Seven years later my daughter’s middle name, “Anna-Maria,” has great significance for me as a theologian. The hyphen, which unites Anne and Mary, recalls to mind the intimate union of the Old and New Testaments, the prophecies of Israel and the proclamations of the Church. Through these two Jewish women in the line of David—one whose Hebrew name means “grace,” and one who is “full of grace”—comes grace upon grace.

Advent is like this too. It is a grace that prepares us for grace. It is a “prevenient” movement within the life of the Church through which God prepares us to receive what we cannot receive by ourselves. At the heart of Advent is Mary’s Song, the Magnificat: “My soul magnifies the Lord.” And the last seven days of Advent resound not only with the prophecies of old, but with the mysteries of eternity. I am speaking, of course, of the great O Antiphons, which “ring in” the final days of Advent.  …

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