He’s Coming! The Great O Antiphons

He’s coming!  And as the Church anticipates the coming of the Messiah at Christmas, we sing the joyful O Antiphons at Vespers during this last week of Advent.

Each of the O Antiphons reminds us of a different title for Christ, highlighting one of his attributes; and each refers to Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the coming Messiah.

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The O Antiphons are:

  • December 17: O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
  • December 18: O Adonai (O Lord)
  • December 19: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
  • December 20: O Clavis David (O Key of David)
  • December 21: O Oriens (O Dayspring)
  • December 22: O Rex Gentium (O King of the nations)
  • December 23: O Emmanuel (O With Us Is God)  

The popular Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is drawn from the O Antiphons.  Written in France in the 17th century, the hymn was translated into English in the 19th century and set to the beautiful plainchant melody we know today.  The text of the hymn, though, dates back to the 9th century and earlier, and is taken from the Church’s daily prayer of adoration and praise, the Liturgy of the Hours.

Here is O Adonai, the antiphon for December 18, sung by the Dominican student brothers in Oxford.

THE O ANTIPHONS

+O Wisdom, you come forth from the mouth of the Most High. You fill the universe and hold all things together with your strong yet gentle care. O come to teach us the way of truth.

+O Lord of Might and Leader of Israel, you appeared to Moses in the burning bush and gave him the Law on Sinai. O come and save us with your mighty power.

+O Stock of Jesse, you stand as a signal for the nations; kings fall silent before you whom the peoples acclaim. O come to deliver us, and do not delay.

+O Key of David and Sceptre of Israel, what you open no one can close; what you close no one can open. O come to lead the captive from prison; free those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

+O Rising Sun, you are the splendor of eternal light and the sun of justice. O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

+ O King of the Nations, whom all peoples desire, you are the cornerstone which makes all one. O come and save man whom you made from clay.

+O Emmanuel, you are our king and judge, the One whom the nations desire and the Savior of all people. O come and save us, Lord our God.


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