Among the Church’s lesser known Advent traditions are the O Antiphons. Prayed during evening prayer from December 17th to the 23rd, these antiphons highlight Old Testament hopes for the Messiah. Accompanying the Magnificat which is prayed on these same evenings, the O Antiphons bear a strong resemblance to the Virgin Mary’s praise of God for sending his Messiah into the world through her.
The antiphons are referred to as O Antiphons because they begin with the vocative “O” in the original Latin, a linguistic structure which conveys a sense of longing, in tone falling somewhere between a command and a request. Each “O” is followed by a name describing Christ’s role in the world. In the darkness of a December evening, it seems appropriate to call for a light to come into the world.
The O Antiphons offer an opportunity for the Christian to share in humanity’s wait for the Messiah. Drawing on Old Testament imagery of the promised Messiah, these prayers are a beautiful way to pray for the light and peace all people long for. Below is a list of the antiphons and their respective days so that you can join in this call for God to send His Son into the world’s darkness and suffering.
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!