December 17, 2018
O Wisdom of our God Most High,
guiding creation with power and love:
come to teach us the path of knowledge!
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
O come, O come Emmanuel . . .
O-nly 8-more days, beloved!
The “O Antiphons” of Advent
The Roman Church has been singing the “O” Antiphons since at least the eighth century. They are the antiphons that accompany the Magnificat canticle of Evening Prayer from December 17-23. They are a magnificent theology that uses ancient biblical imagery drawn from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming Christ as the fulfillment not only of Old Testament hopes, but present ones as well. Their repeated use of the imperative “Come!” embodies the longing of all for the Divine Messiah.
The O Antiphons, also known as The great O’s are Magnificat antiphons used at Vespers of the last seven days of Advent in Western Christian traditions. They are also used as the Alleluia verses on the same days in the Catholic Mass. They are referred to as the “O Antiphons” because the title of each one begins with the vocative particle “O”.
Each antiphon is a name of Christ, one of his attributes mentioned in Scripture. They 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)
In the Latin Catholic rite, the O Antiphons are sung or recited at Vespers from December 17 to December 23 inclusive. The hymn O come, O come, Emmanuel (in Latin, Veni Emmanuel) is a lyrical paraphrase of these antiphons.
Acrostic “Ero Cras”
The first letters of the titles, from last to first, appear to form a Latin acrostic which translates to “Tomorrow, I will be [there]”, mirroring the theme of the antiphons.
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.
Therefore, the Lord Jesus, whose coming we have prepared for in Advent and whom we have addressed in these seven Messianic titles, now speaks to us,
Tomorrow, I will come.
So the O Antiphons not only bring intensity to our Advent preparation, but bring it to a joyful conclusion.”
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