O Antiphons

Nothing gets me more in the mood for the Advent and Christmas season than the hauntingly melancholy sounding hymn “O Come O Come Emmanuel.” The words fill me with wonderment, especially knowing that the verses are from the antiphons or short prayers, used in the evening of the last days of Advent leading up to the celebration of the Incarnation. O COME is a pleading for the Christ to break into our daily lives, shake us up, change our hearts, and heal our needy world so full of injustice.

Going back to my Advent word, “tarry,” the yearning becomes more forceful as the last seven days progress. Each of the O Antiphons are names for Christ and each carries a powerful symbol of hope and redemption.  In the Liturgy of the Hours, the O Antiphons are a prelude to the Magnificat (Mary’s magnificent plea to God to come and establish justice on this earth). Ancient biblical imagery is drawn from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming Christ as the fulfillment of all human desires.

Oh! You might be saying, the “oh” indicating the small surprise you feel when you realize you have heard a word or idea you did not know,  have forgotten, or knew superficially. In this case, the Oh is an exclamation of wonder, amazement, even adoration when something or someone overwhelms or touches your whole being.

Traditionally, the seven O Antiphons are: O Wisdom (December 17), O Adonai (December 18), O Root of Jesse (December 19), O Key of David (December 20), O Daystar (December 21), O King (December 22), O Emmanuel (December 23).

I invite you to tarry over the O Antiphons with me this year during your daily rendezvous with God. Read them silently, read them aloud, sing them, repeat them often. No half-hearted Ohs, please! These are meant to uplift us from gloom and doom and center us totally on the emerging of the Christ within not only at Christmas but every minute of every day.

Perhaps some of you may want to write your own antiphons and share them with all of us. Enjoy this last week of Advent!


O WISDOM of our Creator God, COME and teach us to know you disguised in every flowering cacti, every living, breathing soul.

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