Yesterday, December 17, began the octave of Christmas, the eight days leading up to the great feast of the Incarnation. Traditionally, the “O Antiphons” are prayed during this time. In the Liturgy of the Hours, they are prayed before the Magnificat during Vespers (evening prayer). Each of the O’s addresses the Messiah under a different title:
O Sapientia – O Wisdom
O Adonai – O Lord
O Radix Jesse – O Root of Jesse
O Clavis David – O Key of David
O Oriens – O Rising Sun
O Rex Gentium – O King of the Nations
O Emmanuel – O God with us
The website Catholic Education Resource Center has a great explanation of the antiphons. I quote them below:
O Sapientia: “O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.” (11:2-3), and “Wonderful is His counsel and great is His wisdom.” (28:29).O Adonai: “O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.” (11:4-5); and “Indeed the Lord will be there with us, majestic; yes the Lord our judge, the Lord our lawgiver, the Lord our king, he it is who will save us.” (33:22).
O Radix Jesse: “O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.” Isaiah had prophesied, “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” (11:1), and A On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.” (11:10). Remember also that Jesse was the father of King David, and Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be of the house and lineage of David and be born in David’s city, Bethlehem (Micah 5:1).
O Clavis David: “O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.” Isaiah had prophesied, AI 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.” (22:22), and “His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from David’s throne, and over His kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever.” (9:6).
O Oriens: “O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown.” (9:1).
O Rex Gentium: “O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.” Isaiah had prophesied, “For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace.” (9:5), and “He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” (2:4) .
O Emmanuel: “O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.” Isaiah had prophesied, “The Lord himself will give you this sign: the Virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.”
(7:14). Remember “Emmanuel” means “God is with us.”
I ran across a tidbit that I think is fabulous: If you take the 7 titles of the Messiah starting from the end moving forward, and take only the first letter of the title, (Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia), it forms Latin words “ero cras” which means, “Tomorrow, I will come.” So here we are in the 8 days before marking the incarnation and on the eve before we celebrate his coming, the Church gives us this beautiful reminder, “Tomorrow I will come.”
I invite you as we move closer to celebrating the great feast of Christmas to set aside a few minutes daily to pray and meditate on the antiphon of the day. Here are the ones for the first two days of the Octave. I will share with you the antiphon of the day as the week progresses. I pray that your prayer will draw you ever more deeply into the mystery of His coming and that the power of the Holy Spirit will overshadow you and fill you with the love and life of Jesus.
O Come, O Come! Emmanuel! Anne
Readings: Proverbs 8 / Corinthians 1:18-31
quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem fortiter,
suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.
proceeding from the mouth of the Most High,
pervading and permeating all creation,
mightily ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.
Readings: Exodus 3:1-15 / Philippians 2:5-11
et dux domus Israël,
qui Moyse in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.
O Adonai and Ruler of the house of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the burning bush
and gave him the Law on Sinai:
Come with an outstretched arm and redeem us.
Check out a terrific article on the O Antiphons from Fish Eaters