What are the Advent “O Antiphons”?
At the end of the Advent season (December 17-23) we have the opportunity to pray in a special way with the “O Antiphons.”
The O Antiphons are a series of prayers from the evening prayers (Vespers) of the Liturgy of the Hours.
The word “O” serves to address someone. In this case, we address our prayers to Jesus Christ in various titles.
An antiphon is a short prayer said or sung before or after a Psalm. The O Antiphons are the short prayers said along with the Magnificat, the words that the Blessed Virgin Mary proclaimed during the Visitation with her cousin Elizabeth. They are also often proclaimed along with the Alleluias of daily Mass in the week leading up to Christmas.
You may recognize some of the prayers because the popular Advent and Christmas song “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” paraphrases the O Antiphons in each of its verses.
The names and titles in the antiphons can be reversed to spell the Latin words “ERO CRAS,” which translates “tomorrow, I will come.” What a fitting way to remind us of the Lord’s coming in Christmas!
E – Emmanuel
R – Rex Gentium (King of All the Nations)
O – Oriens (Radiant Dawn)
C – Clavis (Key of David)
R – Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse)
A – Adonai (Lord)
S – Sapientia (Wisdom)
Each of the seven titles are based on the prophecies of Isaiah about the coming of the Messiah.
Here are the full prayers in order:
O Wisdom of our God Most High,
guiding creation with power and love:
come to teach us the path of knowledge!
O Leader of the House of Israel,
giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai:
come to rescue us with your mighty power!
O Root of Jesse’s stem,
sign of God’s love for all his people:
come to save us without delay!
O Key of David,
opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom:
come and free the prisoners of darkness!
O Radiant Dawn,
splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the
shadow of death.
O King of all nations and keystone of the Church:
come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!
O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law:
come to save us, Lord our God!
Teachers/Catechists: Get the lesson plan and worksheet to accompany this video in The Religion Teacher’s Advent Activity Pack.