The Great O Antiphons

On Wednesday, December 15, we will have a service of Lessons and Carols for Advent.  This will be an opportunity to recall the promise of the Savior’s coming in the form of Old Testament prophecy and traditional music of the season.  This service will also be the conclusion of the “Wednesdays at Trinity” activities for 2010; dinner in Gravely Hall at 5:45, followed by the service at 6:30.

The seven lessons and seven carols at this service will be chosen and organized around the so-called “Great O Antiphons,” a series of chants that were sung along with the Magnificat at Vespers on the seven nights before Christmas Eve.  Each antiphon is a prayer for deliverance, and they all begin by addressing the Messiah by one of the prophetic titles found in the Old Testament:

Dec 17       O Sapientia (Wisdom)
Dec 18       O Adonai (Sacred Lord)
Dec 19       O Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse)
Dec 20       O Clavis David (Key of David)
Dec 21       O Oriens (Dayspring)
Dec 22       O Rex Genitum (King of the nations)
Dec 23       O Emmanuel (God with us)

These antiphons embed a striking acrostic: read in inverse order from last to first, the second letter of each antiphon spells out the words ERO CRAS, which in Latin means “tomorrow I will be with you,” a message that is not revealed until the final antiphon is sung on December 23. 

In the event that they might help in your devotional observance of Advent, here are the complete texts of all the antiphons:

December 17 – O Sapientia (Wisdom)

O Wisdom, proceeding from the mouth of the Most High,
Pervading and permeating all creation, mightily ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

December 18 – O Adonai (Sacred Lord)

O Adonai and Ruler of the house of Israel,
Who appeared to Moses in the burning bush and gave him the Law on Sinai:
Come with an outstretched arm and redeem us.

December 19 – O Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse)

O Root of Jesse, who stands for an ensign of the peoples,
Before whom kings are mute and to whom the nations will do homage: 
Come quickly to deliver us.

December 20 – O Clavis David (Key of David)

O Key of David and Scepter of the house of Israel, 
You open and no one can close, You close and no one can open:  
Come and rescue the prisoners who are in darkness and in the shadow of death.

December 21 – O Oriens (Dayspring)

O Dayspring,
Splendor of Light everlasting: 
Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

December 22 – O Rex Genitum (King of the nations)

O King of Nations,
The Ruler they long for, the Cornerstone uniting all people:
Come and save us all, whom you formed out of clay.

December 23 – O Emmanuel (God with us)

O Emmanuel, our King and our Lord,
The Anointed for the nations and their Savior:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.


One thought on “The Great O Antiphons

  1. […] These banners were designed and constructed specially for our Advent service of lessons and carols by members of the Trinity Choir.  Thank you to Donna Wiggin (coordinator), Beverly Henderson, Karen Kerswell, Lisa Jennings, Mary Slaby, Stella Acton-Greene, Marcia McKenna, and Fran Gilbert.  For a full description of the origin and significance of the Great O Antiphons, click here. […]

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