Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

Catholic Prayer: "O Antiphons", Crown of Advent Preparation


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The "O Antiphons" are one of the treasures of our liturgy, a centuries' old tradition. Elsa Chaney describes a way to incorporate praying these antiphons with the Church in the home by using an "O Antiphon House".


The theme of the Advent season has been one of joyous expectancy as the Church, in vigilant preparation, waited and watched for the first signs of the coming of the Lord. The very name Advent, and the Masses of the four Sundays with their urgent plea to Christ to "hasten and delay not" have reminded us that we are awaiting His coming in grace at Christmas, and in glory at the end of time.

On the evening of December 17 the last and most intensive phase of Advent preparation begins. On this evening is inaugurated the first of the Great "O's" of Advent. The "O Antiphons" are seven jewels of liturgical song, one for each day until Christmas Eve. They seem to sum up all our Advent longing as they paint in vivid terms the wretched condition of mankind and his need of a Savior. Addressing Christ with seven magnificent titles, they beg Him with mounting impatience to come to save His people.

The "O Antiphons" are intoned with special solemnity in monasteries at the Vesper Hour, before and after our Lady's great song of thanksgiving, the Magnificat, which is sung every evening as the climax of this Hour of the Divine Office. But in recent years families interested in the liturgy have discovered these gems of poetry and have used them as part of their family evening prayers, sometimes in conjunction with the "O Antiphon House." This is a little house which can be bought or constructed simply; it has seven sealed windows, each masking an appropriate symbol for the different "O Antiphons," and an eighth window hiding the Christmas scene. These windows are opened one by one each day at the singing of the antiphon. The Twelve Days of Christmas Kit contains an "O Antiphon" Tower which the children can cut out and put together. The "O Antiphons" in an English translation follow.

O WISDOM, who came from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: come, and teach us the way of prudence.

O LORD AND RULER of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the flame of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: come, and redeem us with outstretched arm.

O ROOT OF JESSE, who stands for an ensign of the people, before whom kings shall keep silence and unto whom the Gentiles shall make supplication: come to deliver us, and tarry not.

O KEY OF DAVID, and Sceptre of the House of Israel, who opens and no man shuts; who shuts and no man opens: come, and bring forth the captive from his prison, he who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death.

O DAWN OF THE EAST, brightness of the light eternal, and Sun of Justice: come, and enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

O KING OF THE GENTILES and their desired One, the Cornerstone that makes both one: come, and deliver man, whom You formed out of the dust of the earth.

O EMMANUEL, God with us, our King and Lawgiver, the expected of the nations and their Savior: come to save us, O Lord our God.

Prayer Source: Twelve Days of Christmas, The by Elsa Chaney, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, MN, 1955