THE GREAT "O" ANTIPHONS


The Great "O" Antiphons are seven brief prayers that are traditionally chanted or sung on successive evenings starting on December 17.  The precise origin of these texts is unknown.  However, by the 8th and 9th centuries, the church in Rome and monastic communities throughout western Europe were using them at evening worship services during the season of Advent.  These ancient supplications beautifully express the Christian church's profound yearning for her long expected Savior.  They continue to be part of the seasonal devotions of many churches today.  The Great "O" Antiphons form the basis of the popular Advent hymn, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel by English hymnographer John Neale. 

The Great " O" Antiphons are rich in meaning and nuance.  Each antiphon begins with the acclamation "O," addresses Christ by one of His messianic titles from the Old Testament, and ends with a heartfelt plea for His coming.  The sequence of the antiphons is theologically precise, progressing from before the creation of the universe, through the messianic prophecies of Israel, and culminating with the Incarnation and birth of Christ in Bethlehem.  The initials of each Latin title -- Sapientia, Adonai, Radix, Clavis, Oriens, Rex, and Emmanuel -- combine to form SARCORE.  When this is arranged backwards, it spells ERO CRAS, which means "Tomorrow, I will be."  This strange and wonderful coincidence has fascinated Christians since the Middle Ages because Christ seems to answer the pleas of the Great "O" Antiphons by promising to come to His people on Christmas Eve (December 24), the day after the singing of the final antiphon.

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December 17
"O Wisdom, 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."

Click here to read a meditation on this antiphon.


December 18
"
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."

Click here to read a meditation on this antiphon.


December 19
"
O Root of Jesse, who stands for an ensign before the people,
Before whom kings are mute and to whom the nations will do homage: 
Come quickly to deliver us."

Click here to read a meditation on this antiphon.


December 20
"
O Key of David and scepter of the house of Israel, 
 You open and no one can close, You close and no one can open:  
Come and rescue the prisoners who are in darkness and in the shadow of death."

Click here to read a meditation on this antiphon.


December 21
"O Dayspring, splendor of light everlasting: 
 Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death."

Click here to read a meditation on this antiphon.


December 22
"
O King of the nations, 
 
The ruler they long for, the cornerstone uniting all people:
Come and save us all, whom You formed out of clay."

Click here to read a meditation on this antiphon.


December 23
"
O Emmanuel, our king and our Lord,
 The anointed for the nations and their Savior:
Come and save us, O Lord our God."

Click here to read a meditation on this antiphon.


The homilies on the Great O Antiphons are by Rev. William Cwirla, pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Hacienda Heights, CA.