O Antiphons

One favorite, and very ancient, Advent hymn is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”.  This is a hymn that teaches.  The version that we are used to is an adaptation of an even older hymn.  When the Church met daily (multiple times in fact!) at the Vespers (Evening) service, the Magnificat was sung.  This is the song of Mary found in Luke 1:46-55.  Before and after the Magnificat was sung an Antiphon for each day was added.  An Antiphon is simple a verse or group of verses  that act as book ends to a psalm or canticle.

Starting on December 17 the “O Antiphons” of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” were sung and continued until December 23 as a way to prepare for the coming of our Lord, our Emmanuel, Jesus Christ.  They were:

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 Dayspring
O Rex Gentium – O King of Nations
O Emmanuel – O Emmanuel [God With Us]

The real cool thing is that if you take the first letter of each of these Antiphons (after the O) in the Latin, you get the phrase:  ERO CRAS – which means “Tomorrow, I Will Be”.  This not only points us forward to the birth of Christ which we celebrate on the evening of the 24th (because in the Church, the evening marks the beginning of the next day), but it also reminds us that this child born in a manger is the same God who revealed Himself to Moses on Mount Sinai as Yahweh – “I will be who I will be” in Hebrew.

This year, I will share with you meditations written by Rev. William Cwirla as they are far better than anything I could write even if I had the time.  I hope these help bring a bit of focus to these last days of Advent.  O Come, Emmanuel, Jesus… Come quickly.

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