THE GREAT "O" ANTIPHONS

Example

Tomorrow the Church enters on the last 7 days of Advent and begins what is known as the "Great O Antiphons".

Each evening at Vespers the solemn Magnificat antiphon begins with "O": O Wisdom, O Adonai, O Root of Jesse, etc., culminating with O Emmanuel. Each antiphon pleads with Christ, addressing Him by the titles given Him in the Scriptures. "O Come! Come and teach us the way of prudence. Come, and deliver us and do not delay! Come, enlighten those who sit in darkness. Come, and save us!

Each Antiphon addresses Jesus with a unique title which comes from the prophecies of Isaias and Micheas (Micah), and whose initials, when read backwards, form an acrostic for the Latin "Ero Cras" which means "Tomorrow I come": Sapientia, Adonai, Radix Jesse, Clavis David, Oriens, Rex Gentium, Emmanuel.

The "Great O Antiphons" are the pefect antidote to the secularism and commercialism that tries to devour the feast of Christmas. Each evening at Vespers, as darkness begins to fall, we plead with Christ to come and break in upon the darkness and sin of the world:

--Come, O Wisdom, because the wisdom of the world is foolishness!

--Come, O Lord, stretch out the arm of your mighty power. Not the strong arm of the rich and powerful but the tiny arms of a little baby who holds out His arms to be loved!

--Come, Splendour of eternal light for "in you we see light itself!" Burn away the sin from our hearts with the radiance of your Justice so that we may shine as images of your Love!

--Come, O Emmanuel, the Expectation and Savior of the world, only you can save us from our sins. Only you satisfy and fill the aching longing of our hearts!

The "O" Antiphons are sung at the Magnificat reminding us that it is through Mary that the long awaited Savior came to the world. In our monastery the "O's" are intoned by the eldest of the community beginning with the prioress to symbolize the hope and expectation of the Patriarchs and Prophets.

We sing the antiphons in Latin. The tones with their plaintive and expressive gravity are sung using the ancient chants of the Dominican Rite. After the chanting of the Short Responsory the chantress of the week goes to the stall of the sister intoning and making a profound inclination before her "gives" the antiphon to her. Each evening it is a beautiful thing to hear the different voices of the older sisters pleading with the Lord to hasten His coming!

Throughout these 7 days I'll be posting the music and texts of the Great Antiphons for you to follow along. Many thanks to the Brethren of St. Albert the Great Province who originally scanned in the music and provided the texts, making my work easier!

Illlumination from the book of prayers of St. Elizabeth of Hungry, 1220