The Magnificent "O" Antiphons

Thomas J. Euteneuer
Human Life International e-Newsletter
Volume 01, Number 47
Friday, Dec. 22, 2006
Reproduced with Permission

At a time when the Baby Jesus is being increasingly banished from the public forum and reduced to a vain competition with menorahs, Kwaanza candles and - gad - Santa Claus, there is reason for great hope! Despite all the cultural dissonance, the Catholic Church has not taken her mind off of Christ in this holy season. In fact, the Church's deep spiritual pockets always have something of beauty to offer a generation starving of substance. To be sure, one of my favorite Advent traditions leading up to the Vigil of Christ's birth is the recitation of the Great "O" Antiphons at Vespers (Evening Prayer) from December 17th through December 23rd. These brief phrases prior to the recitation of Mary's Magnificat are a wonderful, informal summary of what we believe about the identity of Our Lord and Savior, and I recommend them for anyone who wants to deepen their love of Love Himself.

While there are various traditions about the exact number of "O" Antiphons, the Roman Rite has fixed them at seven to correspond to the week preceding Christmas Eve - they are almost a novena but not quite! These Antiphons give us seven scriptural names or terms that have been traditionally assigned to Jesus and which over time have become woven into our beautiful Advent hymn, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel." They each begin with the vocative Latin word, "O" (English "Oh") which expresses in one little syllable the heartfelt longing of the People of Israel for its Savior. For the Church of Christ, they express the belief that in Jesus Christ all that patient waiting has come to its perfect fruition. As the praying Church so often did with such beautiful gems of devotion, these "O" Antiphons were set to the most exquisite Gregorian chant in the Middle Ages and still today make for the deepest meditation on Christ in word and song as the Church prepares for His coming.

Below are the titles of Christ in the "O" Antiphons for your spiritual nourishment in these next few days leading up to His Birth. Please feel free to go to the sidebar of this email and download a sheet to use for prayer and to evangelize Christ to a dark society like the angels and shepherds did on that first Silent Night.

On behalf of the entire worldwide family of Human Life International, I pray that you and yours may be filled with the Christ Child's superabundant grace and light this blessed season!

December 17 - "O Sapientia" ("O Wisdom"): "The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord." (Isaiah 11:2-3)

December 18 - "O Adonai" ("O Lord and Ruler"): "I, the Lord, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery." (Ex 20:2)

December 19 - "O Radix Iesse" ("O Root of Jesse"): "But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom." (Is 11:1)

December 20 - "O Clavis David" ("O Key of David"): "I will place the Key of the House of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open." (Is 22:22)

December 21 - "O Oriens" ("O Dayspring"): "All this is the work of the kindness of our God; he, the Dayspring, shall visit us in his mercy to shine on those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death." (Lk 1:78)

December 22 - "O Rex Gentium" ("O King of the Nations"): "He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples." (Is 2:4)

December 23 - "O Emmanuel" ("O Emmanuel"): "The Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall give him the name Immanuel." (Is 7:14).

Come Lord Jesus, come!