Monday, November 30, 2009
I'm in the midst of writing a series of four columns reflecting on the Liturgy of the Hours - the third is on my desktop right now. This one is about the O Antiphons, the melodic lines that thread through the last days of Advent: O Wisdom, O Lord of Light, O Root of Jesse, O Key of David, O Rising Sun, O King of the Nations, O Emmanuel. Like the season itself, their origins are wrapped in darkness.
I was re-reading some of the commentaries on the "newly revised" Office tonight (only wincing occasionally at commentators who -- despite the instructions laid out in the Liturgy of the Hours -- spare not a moment's thought for lay people who might pray the Office either in community or individually. Finally, near the end, one gentleman recommend using "polycopies" to enable lay people to join with a religious community in prayer! I loved his coined word for photocopies (or perhaps he meant mimeographs in those days) - it evoked images of a work room of monastic copyists.
At the last I was digging around trying to find the source of the legend that the first letters of the Latin titles were arranged so that - in reverse no less - they form an acrostic: ero cras. ( I will come.) This feels like a stretch to me! I like better the theory that they are ordered to recall the history of salvation - but doubt there is any better support for that. Barnacle Boy burst into my study to ask if I had any book stops" Crash could use. "Book stops?" I inquired (thinking he meant book marks). "Yes, the things that keep books from falling over on the shelf." Book ends!
I checked the OED (the full version online) to find that it recognizes neither polycopy nor book stops. (But I did learn that book ends are more properly called "book props." ) Ever ancient, ever new.