O root of Jesse,
standing as a sign among the nations;
kings will keep silence before you for whom the nations long;
come and save us and delay no longer.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
O Radix Jesse,
qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos,
jam noli tardare
O root of Jesse,
that stands for an ensign of the people,
before whom the kings keep silence
and unto whom the Gentiles shall make supplication:
come, to deliver us, and tarry not.
Isaiah 11.1-4a,10; Romans 15:12; Revelation 5:5
O come, thou root of Jesse! Draw
the quarry from the lion’s claw;
from those dread caverns of the grave,
from nether hell thy people save.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.
O come, O Rod of Jesse free,
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory o’er the grave
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 across the seven days, when read backwards, form the Latin “Ero Cras” which means “Tomorrow I come.” [The NZ Lectionary has “O Sapientia” on December 17, but no other mention of the O Antiphons whatsoever – I sincerely wonder what the majority make of this “O Sapientia” in that text!]
December 17: O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
December 18: O Adonai (O Lord)
December 19: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
December 20: O Clavis David (O Key of David)
December 21: O Oriens (O Dayspring)
December 22: O Rex Gentium (O King of the nations)
December 23: O Emmanuel (O With Us is God)
The alternative English medieval practice would have
December 23: O Virgo virginum (O Virgin of virgins)
For that English medieval practice, reading the first letters in reverse Virgo Emmanuel… cutely results in Vero cras, “truly, tomorrow (I come)”!
The O Antiphons are now also used, in shorted form, in the Alleluia verses before the days’ Gospel readings.
Each day an O Antiphon could be used for prayer and reflection. These could form the basis of an Advent service with readings, music, and singing. Or of art, banners, or other ways of enhancing the worship environment symbolically. The carol “O come, O come, Emmanuel” and the Magnificat could form significant features in this.