The ‘O’ Antiphons
Here are the seven mediaeval 'Greater' or 'O Antiphons' used at
Vespers (or Evening Prayer in Common Worship) from the 17th to the
23rd December. The sequence progresses historically, from the
beginning, before creation, to the very gates of Bethlehem.
In their structure, all seven antiphons follow the same pattern, that of a
traditional liturgical prayer. Each begins with an invocation of the
expected Messiah, followed by praise of him under one of his particular
titles. Each ends with a petition for God's people, relevant to the title by
which he is addressed, and the cry for him to "Come".
The initial letters of the Latin titles, read from last to first, forms a Latin
acrostic, 'Ero Cras', meaning roughly 'Tomorrow I will be there."
The hymn O come, O come, Emmanuel is a lyrical paraphrase of these
17 December – O Sapientia
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
18 December –O Adonai
O Adonai 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.
19 December – O Radix Jesse
O Root of Jesse, you stand as a sign for the peoples; before you
kings shall keep silence and to you all nations shall have
recourse. Come, save us, and do not delay.
20 December – O Clavis David
O Key of David and Sceptre of the House of Israel; you open
and no man closes; you close and no man opens. Come, and
deliver from the chains of prison those who sit in darkness and
in the shadow of death.
21 December – O Oriens
O Dayspring, Radiance of the Light eternal and Sun of Justice:
come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the
shadow of death.
22 December – O Rex Gentium
O King of the Nations and the Desired of all, you are the
cornerstone that binds two into one. Come, and save man
whom you fashioned out of clay.
23 December – O Emmanuel
O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Expected of the
nations and their Saviour. Come and save us, O Lord our God.