Musing on the O Antiphons

By Jennifer Gregory Miller (bio - articles - email) | Dec 22, 2018

December 23rd is the day our family affectionately calls “Christmas Adam” and the last of the ‘O’ Antiphons, “O Emmanuel” or “God with Us.” The acrostic for the Latin names of the ‘O’ Antiphons is now complete: ERO CRAS: Tomorrow I will come!

I’ve been thinking about the ‘O’ Antiphons; they are so unique to the Liturgical Year. The days aren’t a feast day or found on the Calendar. They come directly from the Divine Office (or Liturgy of the Hours or breviary), and are sometimes included in the Liturgy of the Mass in the verse before the Gospel. The liturgy of the Mass has specific readings and prayers for each day beginning December 17th, but they aren’t heralded as “the ‘O’ Antiphons.”

Incorporating the ‘O’ Antiphons in the home is an example of truly living the liturgy “par excellence.” It is only by following the liturgy that we find the clues about the ‘O’ Antiphons.

The ‘O’ Antiphons can very confusing to those who have never heard of them. I can’t think of any other example throughout the Liturgical Year that is like is similar to the ‘O’ Antiphons within the Liturgy. There are Ember Days and Rogation Days that are no longer woven in the liturgy, so it becomes a personal choice to celebrate them. There are days that no longer fall on the Liturgical Calendar such as Lammas Day (August 1) or St. Barbara’s Day (December 4) that we can just look at the 1962 calendar and the Extraordinary Form Liturgy and develop a practice at home. There are also traditional days, like Fat Tuesday and Spy Wednesday that we attach some practices but aren’t included in the Liturgy (Spy Wednesday is inspired from the day’s Gospel, but that is about all).

I could be wrong, but I see the ‘O’ Antiphons as standing alone in their uniqueness of coming from the breviary and marked as days of observance in the liturgy, but not marked on the Liturgical Calendar. And to incorporate them into your domestic church is truly uniting your home with holy Mother Church’s liturgy.

Jennifer Gregory Miller is an experienced homemaker, mother, CGS catechist and authority on living the liturgical year. She is the primary developer of CatholicCulture.org’s liturgical year section. See full bio.

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