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O antiphons

In the NZ lectionary today (December 17), without any explanation, is titled O Sapientia. It is not in our NZ calendar. Until 1990 every day from now until Christmas Eve had such a title (O Sapientia, O Adonai,…) – and one would hope that clergy, at least, were trained to understand the reference. 1991 – all gone – these titles for those days disappear without explanation. Until, suddenly in the 1999 lectionary the solitary O Sapientia appears on this date and does so right into the 2010 lectionary. Nothing for tomorrow, or Saturday,…

From at least the eighth century the antiphon before and after the Magnificat at Vespers (Evening Prayer), for the seven days leading up to Christmas Eve, has greeted Christ with a title starting with “O”. These became the basis of the popular carol “O come, O come, Emmanuel”. The initials, when read backwards, form the Latin “Ero Cras” which means “Tomorrow I come.”

They are now also used, in shorted form, in the Alleluia verses before the days’ Gospel readings.

Here are reflections and musical settings (sung by the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars in Oxford) for these wonderful antiphons that you can use day by day until Christmas Eve:

O Sapientia – O Wisdom – 17 December
O Adonai – O Lord of might – 18 December
O Radix Jesse – O Root of Jesse – December 19
O Clavis David – O Key of David – December 20
O Oriens – O Dawn – December 21
O Rex Gentium – O sovereign of the nations – December 22
O Emmanuel – December 23

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3 thoughts on “O antiphons”

  1. I only heard about the O antiphons last year – and I’m ordained in the good old C of E!
    They are rather beautiful, aren’t they? I love the English versions. O Wisdom, O Lord of might… I think I might start addressing God with those when I pray.

  2. I LOVE the O Antiphons. Thank you for posting these. Sending you Advent blessings these last days of Advent as we approach the holy day of Christmas. Sending them from the Pacific Northwest (Portland, Oregon)!

  3. I started sharing the O Antiphons with my religious education students several years ago. I hope it’s helped them to understand what we’re singing when we sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

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