THE O ANTIPHONS
THE O ANTIPHONS
As her final phase of preparation for Christmas, the Church recites or chants the O Antiphons during Vespers of the Liturgy of the Hours. The O Antiphons express the Church’s longing for and expectation of the Messiah, and her startled wonderment at the fullness of grace which the Christ-Child is about to bestow on the world.
Benedictine monks arranged these antiphons with a definite purpose. If one starts with the last title and takes the first letter of each one — Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia — the Latin words ero cras are formed, meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come.” In these words, the Lord Jesus, for whose coming we prepare in Advent and to whom we address these seven Messianic titles, now speaks to us. The O Antiphons not only bring intensity to our Advent preparations, but they bring our preparations to a joyful conclusion.
Dec. 17 – O Sapientia: O Wisdom (Eccl 24: 5), you came forth from the mouth of the Most High (Sir 24: 30) and, reaching from beginning to end, you ordered all things mightily and sweetly (Wis 8: 1). Come, and teach us the way of prudence (Isa 40: 14).
Dec. 18 – O Adonai: O Adonai or O Lord and Ruler (Exod 6: 13) of the house of Israel (Matt 2: 6), you appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush (Exod 3: 2); on Mount Sinai, you gave him your Law (Exod 20). Come, and with outstretched arm, redeem us (Jer 32: 21).
Dec. 19 – O Radix Jesse: O Root of Jesse, you stand for the ensign of all mankind (Isa 11: 10); before you, kings shall keep silence and, to you, all nations shall have recourse (Isa 52: 15). Come, and save us, and do not delay (Hab 2: 3).
Dec. 20 – O Clavis David: O Key of David (Apoc 3: 7), Scepter of the House of Israel, you open and no man closes; you close and no man opens (Isa 22: 22). Come, and deliver him from the chains of prison who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death (Ps 107: 10).
Dec. 21 – O Oriens: O Rising Dawn (Zac 6: 12), Radiance of the Light eternal (Hab 3: 4) and Sun of Justice (Mal 3: 20), come, and enlighten those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death (Ps 107: 10; Lk 1: 78).
Dec. 22 – O Rex Gentium: O King of the Gentiles (Hag 2: 8), Desired of all, you are the cornerstone that binds two into one (Eph 2: 20). Come, and save poor man whom you fashion out of clay (Gen 2: 7).
Dec. 23 – O Emmanuel: O Emmanuel (Isa 7: 14; 8: 8), our King and Lawgiver (Gen 49:10; cf. Ezek 21: 32), the Expected of the nations and their Savior (Isa 33: 22), come, and save us, O Lord our God.