Adam Boulter

The Advent Antiphons

Leicester Cathedral 2016

The great Advent antiphons are a set of name of Jesus that are recited in the run up to Christmas as Christians prepare for the coming of the Christ born as the child Jesus. These paintings are a response both to those great liturgical pieces and to the poems by Malcolm Guite that accompany them here.

They were on display at Leicester Cathedral for Advent and Christmas 2016.

‘O Sapientia’,
Oil on Linen, 16”x26” 2016
‘O Adonia’,
Oil on Linen, 16”x26” 2016
‘O Radix,
Oil on Linen, 16”x26” 2016
‘O Clavis’,
Oil on Linen, 16”x26” 2016
‘O Oriens’,
Oil on Linen, 16”x26” 2016
‘O Rex Gentium’,
Oil on Linen, 16”x26” 2016
‘O Emmanuel’,
Oil on Linen, 16”x26” 2016

O Sapientia

I cannot think unless I have been thought,

Nor can I speak unless I have been spoken.

I cannot teach except as I am taught,

Or break the bread except as I am broken.

O Mind behind the mind through which I seek,

O Light within the light by which I see,

O Word beneath the words with which I speak,

O founding, unfound Wisdom, finding me,

O sounding Song whose depth is sounding me,

O Memory of time, reminding me,

My Ground of Being, always grounding me,

My Maker’s Bounding Line, defining me,

Come, hidden Wisdom, come with all you bring,

Come to me now, disguised as everything.

Malcolm Guite

O Adonia

Unsayable, you chose to speak one tongue,

Unseeable, you gave yourself away,

The Adonai, the Tetragramaton

Grew by a wayside in the light of day.

O you who dared to be a tribal God,

To own a language, people and a place,

Who chose to be exploited and betrayed,

If so you might be met with face to face,

Come to us here, who would not find you there,

Who chose to know the skin and not the pith,

Who heard no more than thunder in the air,

Who marked the mere events and not the myth.

Touch the bare branches of our unbelief

And blaze again like fire in every leaf.

Malcolm Guite

O Radix

All of us sprung from one deep-hidden seed,

Rose from a root invisible to all.

We knew the virtues once of every weed,

But, severed from the roots of ritual,

We surf the surface of a wide-screen world

And find no virtue in the virtual.

We shrivel on the edges of a wood

Whose heart we once inhabited in love,

Now we have need of you, forgotten Root

The stock and stem of every living thing

Whom once we worshiped in the sacred grove,

For now is winter, now is withering

Unless we let you root us deep within,

Under the ground of being, graft us in.

Malcolm Guite

O Clavis

Even in the darkness where I sit

And huddle in the midst of misery

I can remember freedom, but forget

That every lock must answer to a key,

That each dark clasp, sharp and intricate,

Must find a counter-clasp to meet its guard,

Particular, exact and intimate,

The clutch and catch that meshes with its ward.

I cry out for the key I threw away

That turned and over turned with certain touch

And with the lovely lifting of a latch

Opened my darkness to the light of day.

O come again, come quickly, set me free

Cut to the quick to fit, the master key.

Malcolm Guite

O Oriens

First light and then first lines along the east

To touch and brush a sheen of light on water

As though behind the sky itself they traced

The shift and shimmer of another river

Flowing unbidden from its hidden source;

The Day-Spring, the eternal Prima Vera.

Blake saw it too. Dante and Beatrice

Are bathing in it now, away upstream…

So every trace of light begins a grace

In me, a beckoning. The smallest gleam

Is somehow a beginning and a calling;

“Sleeper awake, the darkness was a dream

For you will see the Dayspring at your waking,

Beyond your long last line the dawn is breaking”.

Malcolm Guite

O Rex Gentium

O King of our desire whom we despise,

King of the nations never on the throne,

Unfound foundation, cast-off cornerstone,

Rejected joiner, making many one,

You have no form or beauty for our eyes,

A King who comes to give away his crown,

A King within our rags of flesh and bone.

We pierce the flesh that pierces our disguise,

For we ourselves are found in you alone.

Come to us now and find in us your throne,

O King within the child within the clay,

O hidden King who shapes us in the play

Of all creation. Shape us for the day

Your coming Kingdom comes into its own.

Malcolm Guite

O Emmanuel

O come, O come, and be our God-with-us

O long-sought With-ness for a world without,

O secret seed, O hidden spring of light.

Come to us Wisdom, come unspoken Name

Come Root, and Key, and King, and holy Flame,

O quickened little wick so tightly curled,

Be folded with us into time and place,

Unfold for us the mystery of grace

And make a womb of all this wounded world.

O heart of heaven beating in the earth,

O tiny hope within our hopelessness

Come to be born, to bear us to our birth,

To touch a dying world with new-made hands

And make these rags of time our swaddling bands.

Malcolm Guite