Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Sandy McGriff, who with her husband Weldon founded a church in Dallas, was arrested on the day after Christmas. She was found leaving the home of a parishioner with $10,000 worth of furs, purses, electronics and so forth.

McGriff claims that she had seen a broken window, and felt that it was her Christian duty to protect all that fine Santa-loot. (She calls it poor judgment, which nobody can deny). The police say that she kicked and scratched them during the arrest, not to mention slipping two sets of handcuffs. (Also, in our limited experience, signs of poor judgment).

McGriff's church, by the way, is called the Church of the Living God. This may confuse some googlers, since there is another CLG founded by her late brother-in-law, the late Larry McGriff.

Video here, courtesy of Conservative Babylon. (Incidentally, CB regularly features a Black Collar Crime Roundup. We'll be checking back often.)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Is It Genocide Yet?

The Times has a piece on the Christians in Iraq -- as persecuted a minority as any on earth, or nearly so. Surely you remember the massacre of 60 worshipers last October. Regular readers will also be aware of the way violence against Christians in Iraq has driven many to leave the country while they still can, reducing their numbers by nearly two thirds, at least by some accounts.

Although there have been large Christian communities in what is today called Iraq since the first century, those communities may not endure much longer. They are being driven off by their neighbors.

Today, as Christians all over the world celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Christians of Iraq are afraid to visit their churches. Their fears are grounded in reality. Please pray for them.

The Holy Family is Not Cheese

By a strange quirk of the English language, the word "child" has few rhymes, and one of them is "mild."

That's what Father A. said in his sermon last Sunday. We won't bother printing the whole thing -- it wasn't that interesting -- but we do want to share this one thought:
And so our poetry and our Christmas carols are full of "mildness." The Virgin is mild, the baby is mild; mild he lays his glory by, mild this and mild that. But do you know what mild means? Inoffensive, placid, even boring. A cheese is mild when it has no flavor.
But the characters we sing about are nothing like this. Mary is bold, when she magnifies the Lord; Joseph is brave, when he defies convention and says Yes to the angel. Jesus is a hero when he goes into combat against sin and death, a savior when on the third day he emerges victorious. They are not mild; they are wild. That is the rhyme, and I wish our carols all used it. They are wild with courage, and obedience not to the letter of the Law but to the spirit of love and faith.

Five minutes later, we sang one of those "mild" hymns. Since then, we've sung a dozen or so more, and so have most Egg readers. But each time, over the past week, we've substituted "wild," and do you know what? It changes the song. One world -- one consonant -- reshapes the story, in a way that we can't help thinking is a bit more faithful to the evidence.

Try it tomorrow, if you get the chance.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sexy Ghosts

Killing the Buddha.com features this fascinating review of a new book called Heaven's Bride, by Leigh Eric Schmidt. It's about the 19th-century sex therapist, religious historian, and political figure Ida C. Craddock. And ... wow. What a story.

Craddock was a brilliant polymath, rejected by Penn because she was a woman, and condemned to life teaching shorthand at a secretarial college. Breaking away, she became a self-proclaimed expert on both sex and religion, dishing out advice along the lines of “think and talk during the nude embrace … of good books, pictures, statuary, music, sermons, plans for benefiting other people, noble deeds, spiritual aspirations." I know: sexy, right?

She was also part of the wild and crazy world of American religiosity, mingling with all your freethinkers, free-lovers, Theosophers and so forth. She visited the Oneida Colony, and later started her own Church of Yoga. When she got into legal trouble, Clarence Darrow defended her. And she did get into trouble. A World's Fair lecture on belly-dancing ticked off Anthony Comstock, the J. Edgar Hoover of smut, and he went after her. She wound up institutionalized and, eventually, dead by her own hand.

But the really wild thing about Craddock was this: she was married to a ghost. Or so she believed, at any rate. Her supposed husband was the shade of a dead businessman, whom she called Soph, and with whom her relationship extended to such intimate details as how lumpy he made the bed at night.

After her death, a psychoanalyst went after her reputation, and published a case study which argued -- in good early Freudian style -- that religious and sexual delusions went hand in hand, as products of repressed (or "sublimated") erotic impulses. Schmidt pounces on this: "The ecstasy of revelation versus the voice of reason — that is an old and almost tiresome choice." Well, yes and no. Psychoanalysis was a pseudo-science from the get go, a religion of its own dressed up in doctor's clothing. So any "reason" here is incidental. Craddock was, pretty plainly, nuts. That doesn't make Freud any more right than Comstock. The question is, as usual among human beings, which of the strange and subjective belief systems available to us will actually create a more beautiful and liveable world.

Buy the book here. We certainly plan to.

Monday, December 20, 2010

On a Less Uplifting Note

This video shows members of one New Mexico church standing outside another, bellowing threats into their microphones. A scuffle ensues. The Body of Christ is wounded, not to mention embarrassed:

What we don't get is why. What's going on here?

The story is reported by a Roswell teevee station, but not very clearly, and we still don't get it. Oh, we get the part about these guys being jerks -- it's clear enough -- but the details elude us. Here's what we do know:

1. Old Paths Baptist Church has a snappy website, but otherwise promises, in so many words, "that old time religion." It uses the King James translation only, believing that "all other versions have Satan's fingerprints." (Take that, Hell-spawned NIV). It is "unregistered," which tells us absolutely nothing. Its pastor, Joshua De Los Santos, has been out of jail for almost five years, and will have his college diploma someday soon.

2. Church on the Move is much older, having come to Roswell in 1994. By these standards, it is practically St. Catherine's Monastery. It also has a snappy website, which offers
  • a casual atmosphere
  • today's music and media presentations
  • a message relevant to your daily life
  • an amazing children's ministry
  • friendly, smiling faces who will greet you and help you find your way around
The website hints that the church may have some doctrines, but doesn't actually say what they are. For that, you either take a class or listen to the podcast. But, honestly, they seem like nice enough people, in a kind of Saddleback-y way.

So what did they do wrong? Our guess is that used the wrong Bible translation. We're thinking Eugene Peterson. Which is, basically, an express bus on the Highway to Aitch-Ee-Double-Hockey Sticks.

Or, maybe, this:

3. Who cares about the actual facts? Old Paths just won itself a whole lotta publicity, Westboro style. And we helped. Damn, they are good at this.

Another Fine Instance

To further prove our point that St. Augustine was a fine preacher -- as though such a thing needed to be proven! -- we have dug up a seasonal example.

A Christmas sermon is included in the (Romish) Office of Readings, whence it has been copied many times to the Internet. Often, lamentably, there is no indication of its source. Fortunately, we live in the Information Age; four minutes of diligent searching turned up the Latin original here, at the indispensable Augustinus.it site. (For those who don't know, Augustinus makes the complete works of its namesake available, searchable and annotated. Please don't confuse it with Augustinus.net, which is something else entirely).

The breviary version has been, appropriately enough, abbreviated. The first few sentences are missing; they're good, and introduce his theme, but the shorter version has a more dramatic opening. Here it is:

Awake, mankind! For your sake God has become man. Awake, you who sleep, rise up from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you. I tell you again: for your sake, God became man.

You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come.

Let us then joyfully celebrate the coming of our salvation and redemption. Let us celebrate the festive day on which he who is the great and eternal day came from the great and endless day of eternity into our own short day of time.

He has become our justice, our sanctification, our redemption, so that, as it is written: Let him who glories glory in the Lord.

Truth, then, has arisen from the earth: Christ who said, I am the Truth, was born of the Virgin. And justice looked down from heaven: because believing in this new-born child, man is justified not by himself but by God.

Truth has arisen from the earth: because the Word was made flesh. And justice looked down from heaven: because every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.

Truth has arisen from the earth: flesh from Mary. And justice looked down from heaven: for man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.

Justified by faith, let us be at peace with God: for justice and peace have embraced one another. Through our Lord Jesus Chris for Truth has arisen from the earth. Through whom we have access to that grace in which we stand, and our boast is in our hope of God’s glory. He does not say: “of our glory,” but of God’s glory: for justice has not come out of us but has looked down from heaven. Therefore he who glories, let him glory, not in himself, but in the Lord.

For this reason, when our Lord was born of the Virgin, the message of the angelic voices was: Glory to God in the highest, and peace to men of good will.

For how could there be peace on earth unless Truth has arisen from the earth, that is, unless Christ were born of our flesh? And he is our peace who made the two into one: that we might be men of good will, sweetly linked by the bond of unity.

Let us then rejoice in this grace, so that our glorying may bear witness to our good conscience by which we glory, not in ourselves, but in the Lord. That is why Scripture says: He is my glory, the one who lifts up my head. For what greater grace could God have made to dawn on us than to make his only Son become the son of man, so that a son of man might in his turn become son of God?

Ask if this were merited; ask for its reason, for its justification, and see whether you will find any other answer but sheer grace.

Now, what makes this such a fine sermon? Many things come to mind. Not least of all, it is very short. This would take four minutes to preach; double it, and you still have a short sermon by any standard. And it needs to be short, because it is dense, both with Biblical language (everything in italics, obviously) and dense with theology. You can't do this for long without losing your listeners.

"Dense," however, does not mean "dull." Try reading this out loud, and you can almost feel the excitement created by the language itself. This is no accident. Augustine was a master of rhetoric, and his mastery comes through at least a little bit in the translation. For example, the repetition of his principal text, "veritas de terra orta est" (Ps 84:12 in the Vulgate, 85:11 to most of us) -- this is a dramatic effect. What the translation can't capture is the rhythm. The latter half of our second paragraph reads this way in Latin:
Perpetua te possideret miseria, nisi fieret haec misericordia. Non revixisses, nisi tuae morti convenisset. Defecisses, nisi subvenisset. Perisses, nisi venisset.
Notice the way the sentences get shorter, driving us to the point.

And above all, it is the point which makes this a great sermon. Because Augustine's point, as you surely notice, is what a later generation of Augustinian thinkers would call the articulus stantis et cadentis Ecclesiae. That is to say, justification by grace. And Augustine could not possibly be more straightforward about it. The last line is worth framing: Quaere meritum, quaere causam, quaere iustitiam; et vide utrum invenias nisi gratiam. Seek the price, seek the cause, seek the reason; and you find nothing but grace.

Arguably the most Lutheran Christmas sermon ever preached, including any of Luther's.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Soul of Wit, and Vice-Versa

Preparing to preach on Sunday's lesson -- the oneiric "annunciation to Joseph" -- we found ourselves re-reading Augustine's Sermon 263, on the Ascension.

Yes, the Ascension -- not the Annunciation. You may wonder why, and well you might. The connection isn't clear, but it is worth making. One of our favorite paintings is the "Merode Altarpiece" by Robert Campin, which hangs in the Cloisters. We have admired it for rather more than thirty years now, first for the startling clarity of its color and perspective, and later for the depth of its theological symbolism.

It is a triptych, in the venter panel of which, Mary hears the good news of her pregnancy. Among other symbols, a candle -- burning, oddly, in the daytime -- has just been snuffed out. Most likely, a reminder that in this moment the eternal Son has set aside his majesty and condescended to be made flesh. Nice, huh?

What excites us almost as much, though, is the right panel: Joseph in his workshop. For centuries, art historians puzzled over the strange little boxes that Joseph was building. In 1945, Meyer Schapiro published a now-very-famous article identifying them as mousetraps. At which point, to scholars of the later Middle Ages, the symbolism became clear, because it occurs in other places as well.

The mousetraps are a reference, at least indirectly, to Sermon 263, in which Augustine writes that "Muscipula diaboli, crux Domini; esca qua caperetur, mors Domini." Roughly put, "The devils's mousetrap is the Lord's Cross; that bait which captures him, the Lord's death." And so Joseph, with his decision to raise and guard the unexpected child, helps to bait the trap which will spring at last on Good Friday. (Feel free to mention that tomorrow, if it comes up).

Anyway, we are always forgetting the source of this image, and then finding it again with a Google search -- which means that we look over Sermon 263 each time, once or twice every year. We only have it in Latin, which we read slowly and inaccurately, but even so the sermon (like many of Augustine's) is a marvel.

It is about 500 words -- roughly half the length of our average own usual Sunday sermon, and ours are fairly brief. But into those 500 words it packs an enormous amount: the Bible, the liturgy, the history of salvation, and the meaning of the Ascension and the hope of the Second Coming. Even with less content, the package itself would be remarkable, because it is easy to forget what a stylist Augustine was. His phrases are terse, epigrammatic, and infinitely quotable -- like Tertullian, but without the heresy.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

For Your Reading Pleasure

As we draw near to Christmas, most Egg readers want nothing more to curl up with a good book. Because, after all, what else have they got going on? Har-dee-har-har.

But this too shall pass, and when it does, you may once again have time to read for pleasure. Perhaps next summer, or when the kids go off to college. Or when you retire. And when that fine day comes, we earnestly hope that Ann Wroe's The Perfect Prince is still in print.

Here's the background. During the last years of the fifteenth century, England's King Henry VII was troubled by a young man who claimed to be Richard Plantagenet, the Duke of York, son of Edward IV and legitimate heir to the crown. (Remembered by mystery buffs as one of the "princes in the tower" from Josephine Tey's Daughter of Time.) This young man made friends among various crowned heads of Europe, and eventually launched two different invasions of England before he was captured.

After the utter box-up of his second invasion, young "Richard" confessed that he was really a working-class boy from Cambrai. His story, which Henry publicized widely at the time, was accepted by most of his contemporaries, and is widely believed by modern historians as well. It is almost certain that "the Duke of York" was in fact Perkin Warbeck. Almost.

Yet, upon close examination, there are little flaws in the story. The confession that Perkin signed gives extraordinary detail about his supposed hometown, and his family. Yet it also gets basic facts wrong -- including the family name. There are a dozen explanations, to be sure -- a careless scribe, the difficulty of rendering foreign names, and so forth. One explanation is that the confession was false.

But who cares? There is more to the story than "yes he was" or "no he wasn't." Indeed, Ann Wroe suspends judgment on the question of true identity, in order to explore other questions that may interest modern readers far more: how is an identity constructed, and how is it destroyed? How could a boatman's son pass as a prince, fooling everybody from Emperor Maximilian to an army of illiterate Cornishmen?

Wroe starts with the basics. She describes his clothing, which mattered immensely in the age of sumptuary laws, when social status could largely be established in a tailor's shop, if the tailor had a few bolts of cloth-of-gold. Then there was his posture, the direction of his gaze, which depended upon the subject at hand and the person to whom he spoke -- these things were prescribed by custom, and when executed correctly were as clear a sign of princely status as clothing, jewelry or native-sounding French.

That's Chapter One, more or less, and the detail gets thicker from there. Wroe, who holds a doctorate in medieval history but works as an editor at the Economist, draws on a seemingly vast array of sources to create a deep sense texture. Looking at the royal account-books, she can describe the clothes that a certain lady wore at court; reading the reports of diplomats, she can divine the interest of foreign kings.

And yet the profusion of facts cannot answer the most basic questions -- and often raises some we might not otherwise have thought to ask. For just this reason, the book is profoundly speculative. Wroe leaves open the possibility that Richard was not really Perkin, and makes a point of calling him by whichever name (or cognomen, or epithet) was being used, at the time, by the people around him -- Piers, Pieris, Peter, Perkin, Richard, York, "the boy," "the feigned lad," and many others. In scattered receipts and account books, she seems to find a relationship -- a deep friendship, perhaps even a romance -- between Perkin's wife and the king who was his undoing. Because she reads her sources so closely, she is able to identify inconsistencies here and there, and to help readers share in the sort of semiotic confusion that all his contemporaries experienced. She tweezes her material, picking apart each minute piece of supposed evidence to search for things that don't add up, and reasons that they might not. By the end, we do not know anything more certainly than Perkin's contemporaries did, but we can understand intimately why they did not.

Some people, of course, do not like their historians to speculate. They want evidence to be hard, fast and conclusive. History, they say, is the study of facts. They will not care for this book. But then, such people are doomed to lives of disappointment, because the things we know, or even the things we might know, will always be outnumbered by the things we cannot ever know.

For our money, the most interesting subject in the book is not its nominal subject at all. His wife Katherine is a Scottish lady of considerable rank, whose marriage to a foreign prince is arranged by her cousin and king, James IV. After the failure of the insurrection, she is taken in at court, apparently a favorite of the king and -- even more interesting -- close to the queen. The queen, that is, who was the sister of the true Duke of York, and would surely have been able to tell him from an impostor. It is hard to argue much from silence, but Wroe observes that in the course of a long life and several marriages, Katherine never names her first husband in any surviving documents. She gives him neither the name he claimed for himself, nor the one Henry had forced upon him.

Henry VII may be even more interesting. On one hand, he was a Tudor, with most of what that implies -- an autocrat, even a tyrant, employing a small army of spies and informants; a skilled manager both of force and of perception; one of the monarchs who led England from backwater to power player on the European scene. He lacks only the religious turmoil that distinguished his son and grandchildren. On the other hand, he emerges here as a remarkably patient, tolerant, even reasonable ruler. He is particularly tolerant of Perkin, whom he works hard to capture but whom, having captured, he allows to survive, disgraced to be sure, but in remarkable comfort.

Speaking of religion: Although it is everywhere as subtext, the book contains little of explicitly religious interest, apart from a clear description of just what it mean to take legal sanctuary in a monastery. But then at the end, after the true climax, Wroe goes where few historians dare to tread: she follows her subject beyond his death, and into the afterlife. Using late-medieval religious texts, Wroe imagines -- as they would -- the soul leaving the body to meet its maker. It is a bravura display, both as an historian and as a stylist. For some readers, it will be far too much -- speculation impossibly beyond the bounds ofreason. From us, it evoked a cackle of delight.

Wroe's prose is lucid, but the detail alone makes this book slow going. It is probably best read when snowed in for days on end, alone in the cabin and with little else to do. Poor Father A., his eyes weakened by age and his intellect ruined by a lifelong diet of comic books, took months to work his way through The Perfect Prince. He considers it time well spent.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The World Turned Upside Down

These two stories were right next to each other on HuffPo just now:

And then, as if that weren't good enough:

(In the latter case, we are assured that "there was no pole dancing or gyrating this time." Delighted emphasis ours.)

Even from afar, we love America. There's no place quite like it.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dept. of No Surprise: We're Right

As has become evident throughout the controversies, much of the Vatican hierarchy greatly undervalues external communication.
This masterpiece of understatement is from diplomat (and Seven Sisters alumna) Julieta Valls Noyes in an internal 2009 State Department document, released by Wikileaks (and published by the Guardian). Regular readers will recall that the Egg has often made the same point: Vatican PR and crisis management are both unspeakably bad. We have also argued that this lack of media savvy is injuring the credibility not only of the Roman Catholic Church, but of Christianity as a whole.

Noyes's cable is a must-read for anybody concerned about the problem. In a brief, clear and well-informed report, she lays out the problem in terms that anybody can understand. Here are a few highlights.

1. The structure of the curia:
The Vatican is highly hierarchical with the Pope ultimately responsible for all important matters. Yet it is also highly decentralized in its decision-making.
This structure reflects belief in the principle of "subsidiarity": leaving decisions to those closest to, and best informed on, a particular matter.
On a practical level, however, subsidiarity can limit horizontal communication by eliminating peer consultation and review. This approach also encourages a narrow focus on issues at the expense of the big picture.
In practice, this means that, as an archbishop involved puts it, "the Church's current communication style [is] focused on the content of a decision, rather than its public impact."

2. The personnel:
Most of the top ranks of the Vatican -- all men, generally in their seventies -- do not understand modern media and new information technologies. The blackberry-using Father Lombardi remains an anomaly in a culture in which many officials do not even have official email accounts.
No wonder they sound out of touch. They are out of touch.

(For the record, our one curial-staff acquaintance was a priest of our own age, meaning that he was in his early 30s when he served a cardinal's secretary, back in the 1990s. He could barely type, and had apparently never seen a computer. Ivy League, or wasn't that obvious?)

They are also "Italo-centric," with a single American as the only Anglophone in the Pope's inner circle. This means that "few had exposure to the American -- or, indeed, global -- rough and tumble of media communications."

Here's an especially glorious detail, at least for anybody who has ever tried to read Vatican-speak:
The Pope's Italian advisors, he said, tend towards old-fashioned, inwardly focused communications written in "coded" language that no-one outside their tight circles can decipher.

The Israeli Ambassador, for example, told CDA that he recently received a Vatican statement that was supposed to contain a positive message for Israel, but it was so veiled he missed it, even when told it was there.
And those guys can read a language without vowels.

3. Benedict vs. JP2:

There is also the question of who, if anyone, brings dissenting views to the Pope's attention. As noted, [Secretary of State Tarciso] Bertone is considered a "yes man," and other Cardinals don't hold much sway with the Pope -- or lack the confidence to bring him bad news.

And if bad news rarely filters out, leaks never spring. [A source]said that under Pope John Paul II leaks were much more common. While damaging, these leaks did allow time for critics of pending decisions to mobilize and present opposing views to the Pope in time. Pope Benedict and Cardinal Bertone run a much tighter ship, he said, but at the expense of squashing coordination or [not allowing] dissenting voices to be heard.

There's a lot more, with some specific detail. It's not mean-spirited; if anything, quite the opposite. But it is clinical, and fits with our own observation. As we said, a must read.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I'd Walk a Mile for This Story

First Baptist Church of West Palm Beach, Florida, had its Christmas pageant on Thursday night. A big one, with live animals and so forth. And they held it in, you know, the middle of Advent. Do people think there is no karmic price for liturgical abuse?

Seems that one of the camels fell into the crowd. Ever seen a camel up close? They're huge. You don't want one to fall on you. And yet, despite this obvious from-beyond-the-grave snark by Aidan Kavanagh, nobody was injured.

It's a pre-Christmas miracle.

Yeah, the video's on YouTube:

Sad Guys

Depending upon how you look at it, Muslim suicide bombers are either (a) brave martyrs giving their lives in defense of God's people; or (b) deluded religious fanatics bent on mass homicide. Right?

Or maybe they are really (c) clinical depressives committing suicide by the one means their society sanctions.

Here's a Boston Globe report on some new research, which suggests the last of these possibilities may often be the case. A jihadi recruiter says that they "look for sad guys" to do their dirty work. More quantitatively, an Israeli researcher studying both would-be bombers and the men who organized their mayhem found that 53% of the bombers exhibited 'depressive tendencies" versus 21% of the organizers, and that 40% of the bombers had actually attempted suicide, versus zero percent of the organizers. Big surprise, right? Suicide bombers are crazier than the average person.

We know nothing about the state of mental health care in Muslim societies. But we will bet that even if he elites can have their heads shrunk and their meds prescribed just like any Westerner, the average guy on the street has fewer options. And, as the Globe says, Islam is the only one of the three "Abrahamic" faiths (shudder, and move on) which has a scriptural prohibition against suicide. Meaning that, for a very long time, "martyrdom" in which one dies by killing other people has been the socially-appropriate vehicle for self-destuctive urges.

This would actually move us to pity for the poor saps, except that after 9/11 our heart was turned to stone. And, okay, it actually does. People who are sick should get the help they need. Still, our compassion for mass murderers is limited. So, to the part of our stony heart that lacks compassion, this report offers some interesting ideas for the place where foreign aid and defense spending overlap. The DoD might buy caseloads of Zoloft and ship them abroad. Or hook up gas mains in certain countries, and buy the inhabitants nice big ovens. Like the one Sylvia Plath had in her apartment.

O Come

As we move toward the final days -- of Advent, and who knows what else? -- many Egg readers may find themselves singing a certain familiar song, perhaps even once too often. Yet here it is again, because Father A. simply can't help himself.

It is arguable, but O Come, O Come Emmanuel may be the best of all the Advent hymns available to English-speakers. Others may rival its eschatological tone and its easy singability, but few draw on such a variety of Scriptural imagery. It is, as hurried pastors have long since discovered, a Bible study in a box, ready to teach.

As you know, it is based on the antiphons of the Magnificat appointed for Vespers on December 17-23. As you probably also know, the hymn was composed by the heroic John Mason Neale, in the mid-19th century. Neale's base text was apparently not the breviary antiphons but a Latin hymn based upon them. (Or perhaps the Latin hymn was a translation of the English version? We truly do not know, and would be grateful for clarification by one who does.)

But like many beloved hymns, it has a confusing number of variations. The English words have been altered by many hands over the years, beginning with Neale's own. (His first version was called Draw Nigh rather than O Come.) Furthermore, Neale gave us only five stanzas rather than the full seven. Most confusing of all is the fact that neither Neale nor most modern hymnals put the stanzas appointed by the breviary. All this makes is a bit difficult to use for parish work, much less one's private devotion.

Here, then, in compact form, are the original Latin antiphons with literal English translations, alongside the Latin hymn of dubious provenance and a composite version of the English hymn. They are offered in the breviary order. These have all been culled from the Internet; nothing is original to the Egg.

First, the antiphons:

Latin Antiphons

English Antiphons

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,

attingens a fine usque ad finem,

fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:

veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,

reaching from one end to the other mightily,

and sweetly ordering all things:

Come and teach us the way of prudence.

O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel,

qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,

et ei in Sina legem dedisti:

veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,

who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush

and gave him the law on Sinai:

Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.

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, standing as a sign among the peoples;

before you kings will shut their mouths,

to you the nations will make their prayer:

Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.

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;

you open and no one can shut;

you shut and no one can open:

Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,

those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

O Oriens,

splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae:

veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Rising Sun,

splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:

Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum,

lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum:

veni, et salva hominem,

quem de limo formasti.

O King of the nations, and their desire,

the cornerstone making both one:

Come and save the human race,

which you fashioned from clay.

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster,

exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum:

veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.

O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,

the hope of the nations and their Saviour:

Come and save us, O Lord our God.

Next, the hymn versions:

Latin Hymn

English hymn

Veni, O Sapientia,

Quae hic disponis omnia,

Veni, viam prudentiae

Ut doceas et gloriae.


Gaude, gaude, Emmanuel

Nascetur pro te, Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,

Who ord'rest all things mightily;

To us the path of knowledge show,

And teach us in her ways to go.


Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel,

Shall ransom thee, o captive Israel

Veni, Veni Adonai!

Qui populo in Sinai

Legem dedisti vertice,

In Majestate gloriae.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of Might,

Who to Thy tribes on Sinai's height

In ancient times didst give the law

In cloud, and majesty, and awe.

Veni, O Jesse virgula,

Ex hostis tuos ungula,
De specu tuos tartari

Educ et antro barathri.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free \

Thine own from Satan's tyranny;

From depths of hell Thy people save,

And give them victory o'er the grave.

Veni, Clavis Davidica,

Regna reclude caelica,

Fac iter tutum superum,
Et claude vias inferum.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,

And open wide our heavenly home;

Make safe the way that leads on high,

And close the path to misery.

Veni, Veni O Oriens!

Solare nos adveniens,

Noctis depelle nebulas,

Dirasque noctis tenebras.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer

Our spirits by Thine advent here;

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night

And death's dark shadows put to flight!

Veni, Veni, Rex gentium,
veni, Redemptor omnium,
Ut salvas tuos famulos

Peccati sibi conscios.

O come, Desire of nations, bind

In one the hearts of all mankind;

O Bid our sad divisions cease,

And be for us our king of peace.

Veni, Veni Emmanuel!

Captivum solve Israel!

Qui gemit in exsilio,

Privatus Dei Filio.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear.

Of course, there is one more verse. Both the Church of England and the Premonstratensian Order preserve an antiphon addressed to Mary. By custom, this one is said last -- so, if one intends to use it, one begins the series of antiphons on Dec. 16. We could not find a version compatible with the hymn, so we have paraphrased it ourselves:

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 Virgin blest, like thee is none

In ancient days or days to come.

Jerusalem shall sing of thee,

That bears th'eternal Mystery

Of course, this changes the famous reverse acrostic from ero cras to vero cras, meaning "I will surely come."