Our reflective focus will be on the ‘O’ Antiphons traditionally used in the anticipation of Jesus’ coming to dwell among us.
Welcome to this year’s Advent retreat. Any retreat offers a chance to take a step back from the pressing concerns of everyday life, to reflect prayerfully on the current state of your relationships, with God, with the people around you, and with the world in which you live. This season of Advent, during which we prepare ourselves to celebrate the coming of Christ at Christmas, is a great opportunity to make a retreat of this kind.
This year, our reflective focus will be on the ‘O’ Antiphons traditionally used in the anticipation of Jesus’ coming to dwell among us. You might like to think of them as seven ways of expressing Jesus and they are often known for being a sung response to introduce the Magnificat at evening prayer in the final days of Advent. Their origin can be traced back to the prophecies of Isaiah, who tells of the coming Messiah.
We will spend time on each antiphon, exploring one per session, allowing space to really get the richness out of each one. So, to get familiar with them, here are the O Antiphons:
O Shoot of Jesse
O Key of David
O Radiant Dawn
O King of all the Nations
After hearing these, you might recognise them from the famous hymn, ‘O Come O Come Emmanuel’ which we hear time and again each Christmas. But have you ever stopped to think about what these really reveal about the nature and character of Jesus? This retreat will help you enter into each antiphon with fresh eyes and ears to hear what the Lord has to say to you.
As we begin this Advent journey, we consider how the following weeks will bring us closer to Jesus:
What do you hope to gain from this retreat?
How do you see Jesus?
How would you express Jesus if someone asked you to?
How would you address him?
Become aware of God welcoming you to meet him and also become aware of all those others around the world who are praying this retreat alongside you.
We start with some practical hints that might help you if you haven’t made a retreat like this before, or act as reminders if you have. You might like to think of these under three headings: how, when, and what.
One question to consider as a “how”, is how long you feel that you are able to devote to each session of the retreat. It’s good to decide this in advance, and try to stick to it. Don’t give up too soon if the prayer seems a little dull, or continue to long if it seems to be going well. The material presented in each of these presentations lasts about 20-25 minutes, but you might want to take more time than this to prepare yourself, or to stay with it afterwards. Just choose a time that you can comfortably fit into your routine.
Under the heading “where”, you might like to give some thought to what time of day is best for you to pray – morning, evening, or taking a break in the middle of the day? This might also suggest another question – where will you find it easiest to pray and reflect in this way?
Finally, under the heading of “what”, ask yourself what you are making this retreat for. What are the gifts and graces you would hope to receive from God during these times of prayer. Make sure that you start the prayer by asking God for these, or for whatever else God wants to give you.
When you have taken a while to consider these questions, you’ll be ready to begin this prayerful time of reflecting on the O Antiphons. Before you begin, just become aware of God welcoming you to meet him in this way, and also become aware of all those others around the world who are praying this retreat alongside you.