In past years, I attended the O Antiphon service at St Marks Cathedral in Seattle where Kristin’s daughter, Mirella, was an acolyte. It was a very moving experience, but to be honest, I did not appreciate it as much as I should because I had no idea what the O Antiphons were.
A Journey Toward Home: Soul Travel for Advent to Lent uses one of the O Antiphons as a focus for reflections each week, so I talked about this a little in my post Behind the Scenes and included this youtube video which provides a good introduction to the O Antiphons. Many of us are not familiar with this tradition which is best known in Catholic and Anglican churches, so I thought that a little repetition and a little more detail might be appreciated. You may even like to find an O Antiphon service to attend in the last week of Advent this year.
Most familiar today from the Advent hymn, O come, O come, Emmanuel (in Latin, Veni Emmanuel) which is a lyrical paraphrase of these antiphons, the seven traditional “O Antiphons” are actually more than a thousand years old. They have long been used at the very end of Advent (Dec. 17-23) in the liturgical prayer of the Church, as Antiphons for the “Magnificat” sung or recited during Vespers (the Evening Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours). They are referred to as the “O Antiphons” because the title of each one begins with the interjection “O”. Each antiphon is a name of Christ, one of his attributes mentioned in Scripture.
The first letters of the titles are taken backwards form a Latin acrostic of “Ero Cras” which translates to “Tomorrow, I will be there”, mirroring the theme of the antiphons.
Saying the O Antiphons as a family, whether during grace at meals, in front of the manger scene, or in front of the Christmas tree, is a wonderful Advent devotion. Listen to the appropriate chant below and spend some time in silence drinking in its beauty and the wonder of Christ’s presence within it. To make the devotion even more fruitful, read and meditate together on the Scripture texts on which the antiphons are based.
December 17: O Sapientia (Is. 11:2-3; 28:29): “O Wisdom, you come forth from the mouth of the Most High. You fill the universe and hold all things together in a strong yet gentle manner. O come to teach us the way of truth.”
December 18: O Adonai (Is. 11:4-5; 33:22): “O Adonai and leader of Israel, you appeared to Moses in a burning bush and you gave him the Law on Sinai. O come and save us with your mighty power.”
December 19: O Radix Jesse (Is. 11:1, 10): “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.”
December 20: O Clavis David (Is. 9:6; 22:22): “O key of David and scepter of Israel, what you open no one else can close again; 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.”
December 21: O Oriens (Is. 9:1): “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.”
December 22: O Rex Gentium (Is. 2:4; 9:5): “O King whom all the peoples desire, you are the cornerstone which makes all one. O come and save man whom you made from clay.”
December 23:O Emmanuel (Is. 7:14) : “O Emmanuel, you are our king and judge, the One whom the peoples await and their Savior. O come and save us, Lord, our God.”
- Nadia Bolz Weber provides a good introduction in her article He is Coming The Great O Antiphons.
- And Catholic Culture suggests some helpful activities to incorporate in the celebration of the O Antiphons.
- The Roman Catholic Lectionary website spells out the O Antiphons and provides Biblical readings for each of them.
- Anna Johnson provides a helpful service for the O Antiphons as well.
- St Marks in Seattle, where I first heard the O Antiphons, has this beautiful O Antiphon CD. You can also preview it and purchase it through iTunes.
- Fisheaters has mp3s of the O antiphons
- You may also like to download this O Antiphon companion booklet
This is part of a series on Christmas/Advent resources.
- Advent Activities for Families and Kids for 2020
- Helping Kids Give Back This Christmas
- Celebrate With Simplicity This Christmas
- Advent/Christmas Music from a Rich Array of Traditions
- Getting Ready for Advent/Christmas Worship Resources for the Season
- Choosing Your Scripture Readings for the Coming Year
- Who Will You Invite to the Manger?
- Advent Candle Light Liturgy
- What On Earth Are The O Antiphons
Resources from Godspace for Advent and Christmas
Godspace has a variety of resources available for celebrating this season.
- NEW BOOK! Lean Towards the Light this Advent & Christmas + Advent Cards Bundle compiled by Christine Sine and Lisa DeRosa
- Lean Towards the Light Advent Retreat Online – video sessions by Christine Sine along with handouts to prepare for the coming of the Christ Child this Advent.
- A Journey Toward Home: Soul Travel For Advent to Lent compiled by Kristin Carroccino and Christine Sine
- Waiting for the Light: An Advent Devotional compiled by Ricci Kilmer, Susan Wade and Christine Sine
- Prayer Cards – more than Christmas gifts. These have been used for daily devotions, grief counselling, small groups and congregational prayers.
Check out the entire resource list here for more ideas for Advent and Christmas.
Godspace has a number of Advent resources available for both free download and purchase. Visit our store.