This Sunday’s antiphon begins a new liturgical year with a mosaic of Advent themes.
The springboard for the opening phrase is to be found near the beginning of today’s 2nd Reading (“it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep”, Romans 13:11) as well as Jesus’s exhortation in the Gospel to stay awake (Matthew 24:42); the second phrase derives from the 1st Reading and the image of the nations streaming towards to the Mountain of the Lord (Isaiah 2:2-3), that same mountain where the Lord of Hosts will prepare for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines (Isaiah 25:6); while the final phrase comes from Psalm 85, that quintessential Advent psalm that is suggested for use by the ICEL 1998 Antiphonal, 2010 Antiphonary as well as the 1974 Graduale Romanum, where mercy and faithfulness, justice and peace, are all core elements.
We also are invited to come to Communion, the feast where those same core elements will figure at the table in the sacrificed Body and Blood of the Lord.
The lilting melody, sometimes called BESANÇON after the town in Eastern France, was originally sung to the words Chantons, bargiés, Noué Noué! [“Sing, O shepherds, Noël, Noël!”], translated as “Shepherds, shake off your drowsy sleep”, the same tune later used by Eleanor Farjeon for her carol “People, look east; the time is near”. The Collegeville Composers borrowed the first two phrases and the very last (sixth). The accompanying psalm uses many of the scriptures already mentioned: Ps 85:9, 11-14; Isaiah 2:2-5; Romans 13:11, and Matthew 24:42, 44.