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The O Antiphons

The Greater Antiphons of December 17-23


The O Antiphons are best known as the inspiration for the Advent hymn "O Come O Come Emmanuel." Composed in the sixth or seventh century, they are used in vespers (evening prayer) and the Masses for December 17-23. Each begins with a title for Christ, drawn from the Book of Isaiah, and the first letters of the titles in Latin are SARCORE. Read backward, that is ero cras, which means "Tomorrow I come" (or "shall be"). (Traditionally, feasts were said to begin on the eve of their celebration, so Christmas begins at sundown on Christmas Eve.)

We can make the O Antiphons part of our Advent preparation by including them in our prayers or Advent Scripture readings on the appropriate day. The Latin text is below, with links to English translations.

December 17—"O Sapientia"

O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

December 18—"O Adonai"

O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

December 19—"O Radix Jesse"

O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem Gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

December 20—"O Clavis David"

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel; qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

December 21—"O Oriens"

O Oriens, splendor lucis æternæ, et sol justitiæ: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

December 22—"O Rex Gentium"

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.

December 23—"O Emmanuel"

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, exspectatio gentium, et Salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos Domine Deus noster.

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