If asked to name an Advent hymn, most people would reply, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." In fact, that may be the only Advent hymn they know by name, and small wonder: It is the most popular of all Advent hymns, and most parishes start singing it on the First Sunday in Advent.
But do you know where the hymn comes from?
Its origins go back almost 1,500 years, to medieval Europe, where an unknown author wrote seven antiphons--short lines to be sung before and after psalms. Those seven antiphons all begin with the "O," and thus became known as "The O Antiphons."
Every Advent, in the final week before Christmas Eve, the Catholic Church uses those antiphons in vespers (evening prayer) and at Mass--one for each day. To learn more about the history and significance of the antiphons, and to find the Latin text of each, check out The O Antiphons. (On that page, you can also find links to an English translation of each antiphon, which you can use in your prayers or Scripture readings for the final week of Advent.)
"O Come, O Come Emmanuel" will never seem the same again!