Catholic Activity: Advent House
Children may open each window on their homemade Advent house day by day for the O Antiphons, which begin on December 17th and end December 23rd to lead them to Christmas in prayerful anticipation. The Advent House corresponds with the Church's ancient treasure, the "O Antiphons."
Most exciting of our family customs is the Advent House with its seven sealed windows concealing symbols of Christ derived from the Old Testament. Beginning December 17th, the little House is hung against the light of a window, and the beautiful "O" antiphons of the Liturgy become our morning prayer. The children can hardly wait to break the seal on each Advent House window. They find within a colorful transparency depicting a symbol of Christ, such as the burning bush, the key of David, the root of Jesse, symbols which grow in richness and meaning year by year.
The antiphons, scriptural texts a few lines long, are so many jewels of inspired poetry. Each prayer ends on the eager cry, "Come!" On December 23rd when the door of the Advent House is opened, children find little King Jesus on His Mother's knee.
"There is a climactic order in these antiphons," Father William J. McGarry, S.J., writes. "In the first, O Sapientia, we take a backward flight into the recesses of eternity to address Wisdom, the Word of God. In the second, O Adonai, we have leaped from eternity to the time of Moses and the Law of Moses (about 1400 B.C.). In the third, O Radix Jesse, we have come to the time when God was preparing the line of David (about 1100 B.C.). In the fourth, O Clavis David, we have come to the year 1000. In the fifth, O Oriens we see that the line of David is elevated so that the peoples may look on a rising star in the east, and hence in the sixth, O Rex Gentium, we know that He is king of all the world of man. This brings us to the evening before the vigil, and before coming to the town limits of Bethlehem, we salute Him with the last Great O, O Emmanuel, God-with-us" (from He Cometh by Fr. McGarry).
O Sapientia December 17 O WISDOM Who issued from the mouth of the Most High Reaching from beginning to end Ordering all things mightily yet tenderly— COME to teach us the way of prudence.
O Adonai December 18 O LORD OF LORDS And Leader of the house of Israel, Who appeared to Moses in the bush's flaming fire And gave to him the Law of Sinai— COME to redeem us with stretched-out arms.
O Radix Jesse December 19 O ROOT OF JESSE A Standard to the peoples Before whom kings are mute, To whom all nations shall appeal— COME to deliver us; delay, please, no longer.
O Clavis David December 20 O KEY OF DAVID And Scepter of the house of Israel, You open and no man dares shut, You shut and no man dares open— COME, deliver from the chains of prison him who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death.
O Oriens December 21 O RISING DAWN Radiance of eternal light And Sun of justice— COME, enlighten those sitting in darkness And in the shadow of death.
O Rex Gentium December 22 O KING OF NATIONS And their desired one, Cornerstone who binds two into one— COME and save man Whom You fashioned from the slime of the earth.
O Emmanuel December 23 O EMMANUEL, God-with-us, Our King and Lawgiver, The Awaited of the peoples and their Savior— COME to save us, O Lord, our God.
Activity Source: Family Advent Customs by Helen McLoughlin, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota, 1954, 1979