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Greater O Antiphons

Greater O Antiphons


The Roman Church has been singing the “O” Antiphons since at least the eighth century. They are the antiphons that accompany the Magnificat canticle of Evening Prayer from December 17-23. They are a magnificent theology that uses ancient biblical imagery drawn from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming Christ as the fulfillment not only of Old Testament hopes, but present ones as well. Their repeated use of the imperative “Come!” embodies the longing of all for the Divine Messiah.

Each of the seven antiphons begins by addressing Jesus using an Old Testament title for the Messiah. These seven names or titles, all from the Book of Isaiah, are:
Dec. 17, O’ Sapientia (meaning O Wisdom), from Isaiah 11:2-3.
Dec. 18, O’ Adonai (O Lord or Ruler), 11:4-5 and 33:22.
Dec. 19, O’ Radix (O Root of Jesse), 11:1.
Dec. 20, O’ Clavis (O Key of David), 22:22.
Dec. 21, O’ Oriens (O Radiant Dawn), 9:1.
Dec. 22, O’ Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), 2:4.
Dec. 23, O’ Emmanuel (O God with Us), 7:14.

December 17
O Wisdom (O Sapienta): O Wisdom, you came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and reaching from beginning to end, you ordered all things mightily and sweetly. Come, and teach us the way of prudence.
Symbols: Oil lamp, open book, dove (Holy Spirit).



December 18

O Lord and Ruler (O Adonai): O Lord and Ruler of the house of Israel, you appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush, and on Mount Sinai gave him your Law. Come, and with outstretched arm redeem us.
Symbols: Burning bush, stone tablets



December 19
O Root of Jesse (O Radix Jesse): O Root of Jesse, you stand for the ensign of all mankind; before you kings shall keep silence and to you all nations shall have recourse. Come, save us, and do not delay.
Symbols: flower, plant with flower, root with flowering stem



December 20
O Key of David (O Clavis David) O Key of David, Scepter of the house of Israel, you open and no man closes; you close and no man opens. Come, and deliver him from the chains of prison who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Symbols: Key, broken chains



December 21
O Rising Dawn (O Oriens): O Rising Dawn, Radiance of the Light eternal and Sun of Justice; Come, enlighten those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.
Symbols: Sunrise, sun




December 22
O King of the Gentiles or Nations (O Rex Gentium): O King of the Gentiles, Desired of all, you are the cornerstone that binds two into one. Come, and save poor man whom you fashion out of clay.
Symbols: Crown and scepter; cornerstone



December 23
O Emmanuel: O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Expected of the nations and their Savior: Come, and save us, O Lord our God.
Symbols: Manger, Chalice and host, Crown with tablets




December 24
This day doesn’t have an official O Antiphon in the Liturgy, because the Evening Prayer or Vespers is actually Evening Prayer I which is the beginning of Christmas. There are old traditions in some religious orders that include a final antiphon to Mary for Christmas Eve:

O Virgin of Virgins (O Virgo Virginum): O Virgin of virgins, how shall this be? For neither before you was any like you, nor shall there be after. Daughters of Jerusalem, why do you marvel at me? What you behold is a divine mystery!
Symbols: lily or fleur-de-lis.


Volume 25 – December 25, 1928I was thinking about the birth of Baby Jesus, and I prayed Him to come to be born in my poor soul. And in order to sing His praises, and form a cortege for Him in the Act of His birth, I fused myself in the Holy Divine Volition, and flowing in all Created things, I wanted to animate the heavens, the sun, the stars, the sea, the earth and everything with my ‘I love You’. I wanted to place all Created things as though in waiting, in the Act of Jesus’ birth, so that all would say to Him ‘I love You’ and ‘we want the Kingdom of Your Will upon earth’.


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