O Sapientia: December 17th, The “O Antiphons”

O Come, Thou Wisdom From on High

The Hymn:Christ_Cefalu_1145-60

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.


Latin Text:

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem,
fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.


English Translation:

O Wisdom, who proceeds from the mouth of the Most High,
Who reaches from one end to the other,
Who mightily and sweetly orders all things;
Come to teach us the way of prudence.


LSB “O Antiphons” under Hymn 357 and in Treasury of Daily Prayer p. 1025:

O Wisdom, proceeding from the mouth
of the Most High, pervading and
permeating all creation, mightily
ordering | all things*
Come and teach us the way
of | prudence.


The Antiphon focuses us on Wisdom as both a title and an attribute of Christ, that He is the Word of God who speaks for God, that He is with God as creator of all things, and ruler of all things through his Wisdom. The petition we bring to Divine Wisdom is that He come and teach us His way of prudence; to teach us to govern ourselves and guard ourselves wisely in this world avoiding danger and evil.

A Study for O Sapienta

Sapienta or Wisdom is the title given to the Messiah in the prophecy of Isaiah 11. Here we have both the Spirit of Wisdom as equated with the Spirit of the Lord, and the fact that He works through the judgements of His mouth and the aspiration of His breath (John 20:21-22). This Antiphon focuses on verses 2-4 of that prophecy:

The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. His delight is in the fear of the Lord,
And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes,
Nor decide by the hearing of His ears;
But with righteousness He shall judge the poor,
And decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked Isaiah 11:2-4 (NKJV)

The title of Wisdom from on High causes us to reflect also on how God names Himself in Isaiah 28:

“This also comes from the Lord of hosts;
he is wonderful in counsel
and excellent in wisdom.” Isaiah 28:29 (ESV)

The personifications of Wisdom in Proverbs 1:20-33 ; 3:13-24, ch. 8 and 9 are also descriptive of the qualities of Second Person of the Trinity. He would come into the world as the Christ. And He is the Eternal Wisdom of God, the Framer of creation:

22 “The Lord possessed me at the beginning of His way,
Before His works of old.
23 I have been established from everlasting,
From the beginning, before there was ever an earth.
24 When there were no depths I was brought forth,
When there were no fountains abounding with water.
25 Before the mountains were settled,
Before the hills, I was brought forth;
26 While as yet He had not made the earth or the fields,
Or the primal dust of the world.
27 When He prepared the heavens, I was there,
When He drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28 When He established the clouds above,
When He strengthened the fountains of the deep,
29 When He assigned to the sea its limit,
So that the waters would not transgress His command,
When He marked out the foundations of the earth,
30 Then I was beside Him as a master craftsman;
And I was daily His delight,
Rejoicing always before Him,
31 Rejoicing in His inhabited world,
And my delight was with the sons of men.

32 “Now therefore, listen to me, my children,
For blessed are those who keep my ways.
33 Hear instruction and be wise,
And do not disdain it.
34 Blessed is the man who listens to me,
Watching daily at my gates,
Waiting at the posts of my doors.
35 For whoever finds me finds life,
And obtains favor from the Lord;
36 But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul;
All those who hate me love death.”

In addition to the 66 books of the Bible, we have inherited the sermons and other writings of believers from before Christ was born into this world. These Apocryphal books are valuable to us in showing us the faith confessed in the coming Messiah. Pious saints of old wrote in their own sermonic works about their Scriptural understanding of the Messiah as the Eternal Wisdom of God. They expressed their faith that one day Wisdom, the second Person of the Trinity, would become incarnate. We’ll look at just two examples:

In the early 2nd century B.C. Shimon ben Yeshua ben Eliezer ben Sira of Jerusalem, even in his imperfect understanding, was able to preach that the Messiah could say:

I came out of the mouth of the most High, the firstborn before all creatures:
I made that in the heavens there should rise light that never faileth, and as a cloud I covered all the earth:
I dwelt in the highest places, and my throne is in a pillar of a cloud.
I alone have compassed the circuit of heaven, and have penetrated into the bottom of the deep, and have walked in the waves of the sea,
And have stood in all the earth: and in every people,
10 And in every nation I have had the chief rule:
11 And by my power I have trodden under my feet the hearts of all the high and low: and in all these I sought rest, and I shall abide in the inheritance of the Lord. (Sirach 24:3-11 LXX)

The writer of the book of Wisdom preached about Solomon’s request in the centuries before the incarnation of Christ, invoking Christ as the Wisdom of God :

1 God of my fathers, and Lord of mercy, Who hast made all things with Thy Word,
And by Thy Wisdom hast appointed man, that he should have dominion over the creature that was made by Thee,
That he should order the world according to equity and justice, and execute justice with an upright heart:
Give me Wisdom, Who that sitteth by Thy throne, and cast me not off from among Thy children:
For I am Thy servant, and the son of Thy handmaid, a weak man, and of short time, and falling short of the understanding of judgment and laws.
For if one be perfect among the children of men, yet if Thy Wisdom be not with him, he shall be nothing regarded.
Thou hast chosen me to be king of Thy people, and a judge of thy sons and daughters.
And hast commanded me to build a temple on Thy holy mount, and an altar in the city of thy dwelling place, a resemblance of Thy holy tabernacle, which Thou hast prepared from the beginning:
And Thy Wisdom with Thee, Who knoweth Thy works, Who then also was present when Thou madest the world, and knew what was agreeable to Thy eyes, and what was right in Thy commandments. (Wisdom 9:1-9 LXX)

There are several other testimonies like these in the Apocrypha which express faith that the Wisdom of God is both God along side the Father from eternity and also the promised Messiah who would become man for our salvation [e.g., Widsom 7:26; Wisdom 8; Baruch 3:15-4:4].

Christ, the Wisdom from on High, is the Word of God Incarnate, the Mouthpiece of God promised through Moses on the same day the Lord gave the First Covenant at Sinai:

15 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, 16 according to all you desired of the Lord your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’
17 “And the Lord said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. 18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. 19 And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him. (Deuteronomy 18:15-19)

This Jesus is the Word of God:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
15 John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’”
16 And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. (John 1:1-18)

Martin Luther preached on John 1 in a Christmas sermon, saying in part:

3. That this Gospel may be clearer and more easily understood, we must go back to the passages in the Old Testament upon which it is founded, namely, the beginning of the first chapter of Genesis. There we read, Gen. 1, 1-3: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and the earth was waste and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light, and there was light,” etc. Moses continues how all things were created in like manner as the light, namely, by speaking of the Word of God. Thus: “And God said, Let there be a firmament.” And again: “God said, Let there be sun, moon, stars,” etc.

4. From these words of Moses it is clearly proved that God has a Word, through which or by means of which he spoke, before anything was created; and this Word does not and cannot be anything that was created, since all things were created through this divine utterance, as the text of Moses clearly and forcibly expresses it, when it says: “God said, Let there be light, and there was light.” The Word must therefore have preceded the light, since light came by the Word; consequently it was also before all other creatures, which also came by the Word, as Moses writes.

5. But let us go farther. If the Word preceded all creatures, and all creatures came by the Word and were created through it, the Word must be a different being than a creature, and was not made or created like a creature. It must therefore be eternal and without beginning. For when all things began it was already there, and cannot be confined in time nor in creation, but is above time and creation; yea, time and creation are made and have their beginning through it. Thus it follows that whatever is not temporal must be eternal; and that which has no beginning cannot be temporal; and that which is not a creature must be God. For besides God and his creatures there is nothing. Hence we learn from this text of Moses, that the Word of God, which was in the beginning and through which all things were made and spoken, must be God eternal and not a creature. (Church Postil, 1521-1522)

A Prayer:

O Lord Jesus Christ, You are the very Wisdom of God most high, by whom the Father made the world, impressing on His creation the reflection of His own power and goodness; You uphold the world in its being and harmony, even as You extend from one end to the other mightily and sweetly ordering all things; You visited God’s prophets and servants of old, giving them ever fuller knowledge of His mind and will; In the fullness of time You came forth in the incarnation, clothing Yourself in our nature and living amidst our conditions, to teach us the way of prudence-how to use the wonders of nature that You made, how to escape the snares and temptations by which we are surrounded, how through faith to attain the blessedness which Thou hast prepared for us.
Blessed be Your Name for Your teaching by word and by example, for the testimony of Your Apostles and the record of the Scriptures, for the continual guidance of Your Holy Spirit and the witness of Your Saints.
Come now, we pray You, by Your grace to Your Church and people, and teach us in our day and in our need the way of prudence-how best to promote Your Father’s glory, and extend Your kingdom through Word and Sacrament, and to run the good race of faith as we so pass through things temporal, so that we do not lose the things eternal.


“O Word of God Incarnate”
by William W. How, 1823-1897

1. O Word of God Incarnate,
O Wisdom from on high,
O Truth unchanged, unchanging,
O Light of our dark sky,
We praise Thee for the radiance
That from the hallowed page,
A lantern to our footsteps
Shines on from age to age.

2. The Church from her dear Master
Received the gift divine,
And still that light she lifteth
O’er all the earth to shine.
It is the golden casket
Where gems of truth are stored;
It is the heaven-drawn picture
Of Christ, the living Word.

3. And when our earthly race is run,
Death’s bitter hour impending,
Then may Thy work in us begun
Continue till life’s ending,
Until we gladly may commend
Our souls into our Savior’s hand
To rest in peace eternal.

The Lutheran Hymnal
Hymn #294
Text: Ps. 119:105
Author: William W. How, 1867
Tune: “Munich”

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