Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘discernment’

Keeping Your O

I’m one who savors the season of Advent and Christmas. I love the quiet holiness that can accompany this season. I delight in the many hymns of Christmas. This morning, when I rolled out of bed, I was humming the tune to

O Come, O Come Emmanuel.


“O Come, Thou Wisdom, from on high,

And order all things far and nigh;

To us the path of knowledge show,

And teach us in her ways to go.


Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”


How odd to have that hymn as the first thing on my heart as I arose. Then I remembered why. Last night I’d been reading about the O Antiphon days. This morning is their beginning.

The O Antiphons are used in liturgical worship through prayer and song from December 17 through December 23. As I understand it, the O Antiphons were the basis for the wonderful hymn I’d been humming. Each of the seven O Antiphons is a title for Jesus that leads us to focus afresh on Him. It’s an Advent tradition I’ve adopted: to ponder Jesus in light of these seven titles. Apparently, it was a tradition in times past as well, even centuries ago.  “Keep your O” became a short catch phrase to remind folks to ponder these various titles, leaning into those characteristics of Christ, as Christmas approached.

In Latin, the seven titles create an acrostic. When each beginning letter is joined from last to first, it reads “Ero Cras,” which translates  “Tomorrow I come.” This reminds us of what Advent is leading up to: The Coming of Christ.

For those among us who, like me, are not versed in Latin, the English translations are:

O Sapientia =       O Wisdom

O Adonai =            O Lord of Israel

O Radix Jesse =    O Root of Jesse

O Clavis David =  O Key of David

O Oriens =             O Dayspring

O Rex Gentium =  O King of the Gentiles

O Emmanuel =     O God with us

So I woke up this morning with O Wisdom on my mind. Lately I’ve been reading through Proverbs, noticing what wisdom is and what wisdom is not. Thinking of the O Wisdom antiphon, I turned to Isaiah 11:2-3 and Isaiah 28:29. The Spirit of Wisdom rests on Jesus; He is magnificent in wisdom. That’s a magnificent thought that leads me to worship Jesus afresh. How appealing. How settling. There are so many questions, so many confusing things, so many ups and downs in any given day. How reassuring to know that there is true wisdom which resides, originates, and comes forth from Jesus. Anything I need to know for living wisely is ever-present in the One who came, and comes, and will come again.

Wouldn’t it be grand to be one who is infused with such wisdom? I’d love for the scent of wisdom to be wafting appealingly through me. What might that look like? How might that come to be?

Wisdom is something we gather as we walk with Jesus, the Wisdom from on high. However it’s not like we gather baskets of wisdom then sit them on the shelf of our intellect and say, “There, I’ve gotten some wisdom.”

Wisdom is rather something we gather from being continually in the Presence of the Holy One, then apply it to our moments as we journey through life. It’s an integrated way of being in relationship with Christ, listening well to Him: my head and my heart woven into a wholesomeness that leans towards holiness. I watch Jesus, listen to Him, and go forth, doing and being likewise. In His Presence, I inhale wisdom.

There’s an orderliness, too, about wisdom coupled with discernment as we choose how to step into more of God. There’s a constancy about wisdom as well. It’s not something I can gain in one moment. It’s about staying close to the Wisdom from on high Himself that garners wisdom’s growth within me. Small constant steps with Christ bring me towards wisdom.

So on this first day of the O Antiphons, I’m thinking about how I’m “keeping my O”…by watching Jesus who is the O Wisdom.


On this first day of the O Antiphons, join me in pondering:

How are you doing on “Keeping your O?”

Where are you leaning well into Wisdom?

Where do you resist?

How might the Wisdom from on High infuse us this day?




Lane M. Arnold

All rights reserved.




Being You

Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.                               St. Catherine of Siena

I am contemplative. I pray to discern. I linger longer at the heart of Love to hear His call, His longing for me. A life of listening prayerfulness is about listening to God more than listening to myself. I listen to hear His heart for my heart. I listen to hear His heart for another. I listen for family’s hearts and for friends’ hearts and for my spiritual directees’ hearts. I am contemplative.

But sometimes I want to stay only contemplative and that is, on occasion, a choice made of fear. I want to be sure. I want to be clear. I don’t want to be stretched or rearranged into the unknown. A comfort zone is comfortable, isn’t it? But, God doesn’t really call me to be comfortable. He calls me to step into love’s action.

Contemplation in action is requesting more of me.

Thinking on the seemingly disparate differences between contemplation and action led me again to St. Catherine of Siena. She wasn’t a familiar name until I visited Siena in 2004, while my daughter, an art major, was studying abroad in Florence, Italy. Being a good mother, I flew over to check in on her. Oh, and by the way, while I’m here…let’s see a bit of Italy.

One gold-lit afternoon as we meandered medieval lanes in Siena, we came across references to St. Catherine. Born in the 1300s to a merchant family who were somewhat prosperous, she chose a spiritual commitment to Christ over a social commitment to marriage and affluence, having experienced some holy encounters with Christ. Upon entering an order of laywomen, she spent three years in solitary contemplation. Such silence of prayer set a foundation of strength and stability at a heart level with God. Yet, God called her forth from her life of contemplation into a life of action. For St. Catherine, the blend of contemplation and action were not opposed to one another, but were rather complements that took her singleness of heart to a service of others. She encouraged, mediated, taught, comforted and served others through her contemplation gathered from her prayerful heart, her presence offered by her serving heart, and her gift of writing, both letters and a book, grown from an obedient heart.

I watch St. Catherine and find myself challenged: will I sit only in contemplation and never act? Or will I move forward into a life that blends the power of silence and the power of service?

I’m at a change point. It’s time to step into or step up to action. My novel has languished on the shelf, literally, while I’ve gone about my life of being a spiritual director. My prose and poetry have shriveled in a dried out corner while my energy has focused on a nonfiction book on the physical body and our life with Christ and the Body of other Christ-followers, due out in January of 2013.

It’s time now to believe, to act, to move past thinking about to being within, to doing the work, to creating the wonder with another part of my writer’s heart.

The pivot points are here:

  1. Discernment: I am a writer. I have a story worth telling. This is God’s gifting to me. I am to celebrate His Presence in me by writing words to others.
  2. Delight: Like Eric Liddell’s famous line in Chariots of Fire, I feel God’s pleasure when I run by writing in His giftings of my heart, both in nonfiction and fiction, in poetry and prose.
  3. Discipline: Thinking about writing won’t write the story, won’t create the poem. Investing in discipline will. I will arise before the day takes off and in the quiet of dawn, I will act as a writer does: I will write.

St. Catherine spurs me on with her prayers: I have naught to give save what Thou hast given me.

She reminds me that effort is involved: Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.

She challenges me: Proclaim the truth and do not be silent through fear.

She encourages me: I treasure your knowing how to give the world a kick.

St. Catherine sets the bar high: Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.

I’m moving forward, blending my contemplative heart and my writing art into an action that will set the world on fire…or at least start a small blaze glowing. Who knows what can happen from here?

What about you? How will you set the world on fire by being whom God meant you to be?