On December 17th the Church will begin praying what are called the “O” Antiphons. The 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 every year from December 17-23. As well, the Church proclaims them as the Alleluia verses during the Mass for those days. They are a magnificent expression of our Faith, which uses ancient Biblical imagery drawn from the hopes of the Old Testament for the promised Messiah. They proclaim the coming Christ as the fulfillment not only of Old Testament hopes, but present ones as well. Their repeated use of the word “Come!” in the last line of each antiphon embodies the longing we all have for Jesus. The O Antiphons describe our need for Jesus. The first one describes Jesus as the teacher of “the path of Knowledge”. All the others describe our prison in sin, not able to free ourselves from our sin without Jesus. The last two reveal that our Savior, Jesus, is God Himself. They are also the source of the Advent hymn: “O’ Come O’ Come Emmanuel” May they be a source of grace for us this Advent.
O Wisdom of our God Most High,
guiding creation with power and love:
come to teach us the path of knowledge!
O Leader of the House of Israel,
giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai:
come to rescue us with your mighty power!
O Root of Jesse’s stem,
sign of God’s love for all his people:
come to save us without delay!
O Key of David,
opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom:
come and free the prisoners of darkness!
O Radiant Dawn,
splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.
O King of all nations and keystone of the Church:
come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!
O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law:
come to save us, Lord our God!
“O’ Come, O’ Come Emmanuel”
O come, O come, Emmanuel
And ransom captive Israel
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear
Rejoice, rejoice, Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
O come, Thou Day-Spring Come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight
O come, Thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heavenly home
Make safe the way that leads on high
And close the path to misery
O come, O come, Thou Lord of might
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height
In ancient times did’st give the Law
In cloud, and majesty and awe