Skip to comments.About the "Great O's" ("O Antiphons") [Ecumenical]
Posted on 12/17/2012 4:24:20 PM PST by Salvation
About the "Great O's"
On the evening of December 17 the final phase of preparation for Christmas begins with the first of the great "O Antiphons" of Advent. These prayers are seven jewels of liturgical song, one for each day until Christmas Eve. They seem to sum up all our Advent longing for the Savior.
The "O Antiphons" are intoned with special solemnity in monasteries at Vespers, before and after the Magnificat, Mary's prayer of praise and thanksgiving from the Gospel of Luke (2:42-55), which is sung every evening as the climax of this Hour of the Divine Office.
A vestige of the "Great O's" can be seen in verses of the familiar Advent hymn, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel".
Families interested in the liturgy have discovered these gems of liturgical poetry and use them in their evening prayers. An "O Antiphon House" similar to an Advent Calendar, can be made, with seven windows, each concealing an appropriate symbol for the different "O Antiphons," and an eighth window hiding the Nativity scene. As with an Advent calendar, one window is opened each day.
The sublime meditation of the "Great 'O's" would be excellent for families with children who have outgrown the Jesse Tree or Advent calendar. In any case, they are beautiful additions to your family prayers in the days just before Christmas.
O Wisdom, that proceedest from the mouth of the Most High, Reaching from end to end mightily, and sweetly disposing all things: come and teach us the way of prudence.
O Lord and Ruler of the house of Israel, Who didst appear unto Moses in the burning bush, and gavest him the law on Sinai: come and redeem us by Thy outstretched arm.
O Root of Jesse, Who standest as the Ensign of the people, before Whom kings shall not open their lips; to Whom the Gentiles shall pray: come and deliver us, tarry now no more.
O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel; Who openest, and no man shutteth, Who shuttest, and no man openeth: come and lead the captive from the prison house, and him that sitteth in darkness and the shadow of death.
O Dawn of the East, Splendor of the eternal Light, and Sun of justice: Come and enlighten them that sit in darkness, and the shadow of death.
O King of the Gentiles, yea, and the desire thereof, the Cornerstone that makest both one: come and save man, whom Thou hast made out of the slime of the earth.
O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the expectation of all nations and their Salvation: come and save us, O Lord our God.
The Legenda Aurea, a great medieval work containing stories of saints, says the following about the seven O Antiphons:
O Sovereign Wisdom, descending from the mouth of the Most High, come to us and teach us the way of prudence. And inasmuch as it is insufficient for us to be taught, we ask in the second,
O Sovereign Head and Prince of the house of Israel, come and evenbye us by thy power with arms outstretched. But little should it profit us to be taught and again-bought, if yet we are holden in prison, fast-shut up. And therefore we ask to be delivered, saying,
O Root of Jesse, come and deliver us, and tarry not. And what availeth it that prisoners be bought again and delivered, if they are not unbound, and free to go where they will? And therefore we ask that we may be unbound and loosed from all bands of sin, when we cry in the fourth anthem,
O Key of David, that closeth that no man may open, and openest that no man may shut, come to us and deliver the prisoner out of the prison, who sitteth in darkness and shadow of death. For they that have been long in prison and dark places cannot see clearly, but have eyes that are dim. Therefore, after we are delivered from prison, it is needful that our eyes be made clear and our sight illuminated, that we may see where we should go. And therefore we cry in the fifth anthem,
O Orient, the Splendour of the Eternal Light, come and enlighten those that sit in darkness and the shadow of death. And if we were taught, illuminated, unbound, and bought, what should it avail us unless we be saved? And therefore we say the two last anthems,
O thou King of nations, come and save the men whom thou hast formed of the dust of the earth:
O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, our Lord and God, come and save us.
(Found in Vernon Staley, The Liturgical Year: an Explanation of the Origin, History and Significance of the Festival Days and Fasting Days of the English Church, (London, 1907), pages 70-71.)
Advent "O" antiphons begin: Pray Vespers with the Church!
"O Antiphons" for the Week before Christmas (Dec. 17-23) [Ecumenical]
Praising the Names of Jesus: The Antiphons of Advent
The O Antiphons
Ego Cras (Anagram of the Messianic Titles of Christ in the "O" Antiphons)
Praying with the "O" Antiphons
The 'O' Antiphons -- Prayer Activity for Families
O Antiphons -- Scriptural Detail of these Advent prayers
The Great Advent Antiphons
What are the O Antiphons?
Also from CERC:
The importance of O Antiphons is twofold: Each one highlights a title for the Messiah: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Rising Sun), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), and O Emmanuel. Also, each one refers to the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah. Lets now look at each antiphon with just a sample of Isaiahs related prophecies :
O Sapientia: O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation. Isaiah had prophesied, The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord. (11:2-3), and Wonderful is His counsel and great is His wisdom. (28:29).
O Adonai: O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free. Isaiah had prophesied, But He shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the lands afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked. Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips. (11:4-5); and Indeed the Lord will be there with us, majestic; yes the Lord our judge, the Lord our lawgiver, the Lord our king, he it is who will save us. (33:22).
O Radix Jesse: O Flower of Jesses stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid. Isaiah had prophesied, But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. (11:1), and A On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious. (11:10). Remember also that Jesse was the father of King David, and Micah had prophesied that the Messiah would be of the house and lineage of David and be born in Davids city, Bethlehem (Micah 5:1).
O Clavis David: O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom. Isaiah had prophesied, AI will place the Key of the House of David on His shoulder; when he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open. (22:22), and His dominion is vast and forever peaceful, from Davids throne, and over His kingdom, which he confirms and sustains by judgment and justice, both now and forever. (9:6).
O Oriens: O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death. Isaiah had prophesied, The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown. (9:1).
O Rex Gentium: O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust. Isaiah had prophesied, For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. They name him Wonder-Counselor, God-Hero, Father-Forever, Prince of Peace. (9:5), and He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. (2:4) .
O Emmanuel: O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God. Isaiah had prophesied, The Lord himself will give you this sign: the Virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.
(7:14). Remember Emmanuel means God is with us.
For Seven Days of praying the O Antiphons!
Thank you for posting this. I love the “O Antiphons”.
You’re so welcome!
Symbols: All-Seeing Eye and the Lamp
Come, and teach us the way of prudence.
O Wisdom, who came from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly, Come, and teach us the way of prudence.
O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem fortiter, suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.
The "all-seeing eye" represents the all-knowing and ever-present God. During the late Renaissance, the eye was pictured in a triangle with rays of light to represent the infinite holiness of the Trinity. The lamp is a symbol of wisdom taken from the parable of the wise and foolish virgins in Matthew 25.
Recommended Readings: Proverbs 8:1-12
I did “O Wisdom” tonight with such children as were about. (Some are at Boy Scouts.) Too bad for the ones at home - they had to listen to me sing in English and Spanish!
I’m sure they loved it!
O ROOT OF JESSE
Symbols: Plant with Flower
Come to deliver us, and tarry not.
O Root of Jesse, who stands for an ensign of the people, before whom kings shall keep silence and unto whom the Gentiles shall make supplication: Come to deliver us, and tarry not.
O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.
The flower which springs up from the root of Jesse is another figure of Christ. Isaiah prophesied that the Savior would be born from the root of Jesse, that He would sit upon the throne of David, and in Christ this prophecy is fulfilled.
Recommended Readings: Isaias 11:1-12
O KEY OF DAVID
Come, and bring forth the captive from his prison.
O Key of David, and Scepter of the House of Israel, who opens and no man shuts, who shuts and no man opens; Come and bring forth the captive from his prison, he who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death.
O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israël, qui aperis, et nemo claudit, claudis, et nemo aperuit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.
The key is the emblem of authority and power. Christ is the Key of the House of David who opens to us the full meaning of the scriptural prophecies, and reopens for all mankind the gate of Heaven.
Recommended Readings: Isaias 22:22-25
O RADIANT DAWN
Symbols: Sun with Rays
Come, and shine on those seated in darkness, and in the shadow of death.
O Dawn, splendor of eternal light, and sun of justice, come, and shine on those seated in darkness, and in the shadow of death.
O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.
Just as the natural sun gives light and life to all upon whom its rays fall, so Christ, the Rising Dawn, dispels darkness and brings eternal life and light.
Recommended Readings: Malachias 4:2-6
O KING OF THE GENTILES
Symbols: Crown and Scepter
Come, and deliver man, whom You formed out of the dust of the earth.
O King of the Gentiles and their desired One, the Cornerstone that makes both one; Come, and deliver man, whom You formed out of the dust of the earth.
O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.
The crown and scepter signify Christ's universal kingship. As we sing in the fifth O Antiphon, Christ is not only the King of the Jewish nation, but the "Desired One of all," the cornerstone which unites both Jew and Gentile.
Recommended Readings: Apocalypse 15:1-4
Come to save us, O Lord our God.
O Emmanuel, God with us, our King and Lawgiver, the expected of the nations and their Savior: Come to save us, O Lord our God.
O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, expectatio gentium, et Salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.
The manger reminds us of the simplicity and poverty surrounding the birth of Jesus and is representative of His life of humility.
Recommended Readings: Isaias 9:2-7