Praying the O Antiphons

Christmas carols, Advent wreaths, Christmas trees, Midnight Mass, and ginger cookies — Whether they are family or Church customs, the many traditions associated with the Advent and Christmas seasons make these special times of the year for us. 

One of these ancient traditions is the O Antiphons: seven responses, or antiphons, that are sung or recited to introduce the canticle of Mary (the Magnificat) at evening prayer from December 17 to December 23, the octave before Christmas. These antiphons are based on Isaiah’s prophecies and refer to the different ancient titles given to the Messiah: 

O Sapientia (O Wisdom) See Isaiah 11:2–3; 28:29.
O Adonai (O Lord) See Isaiah 11:4–5; 33:22.
O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse) See Isaiah 1:1; 11:10.
O Clavis David (O Key of David) See Isaiah 9:6; 22:22.
O Oriens (O Rising Sun) See Isaiah 9:1.
O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations) See Isaiah 9:5; 2:4. O Emmanuel (God with us) See Isaiah 7:14. 


We can bring these responses into our own prayers in these next eight days before Christmas.  We can use them:

—as simple reminders throughout the day of the one whose coming we are joyfully expecting;

— as introductions to our own prayers of praise of Jesus;

— or as words of thanksgiving for God’s faithfulness throughout the ages and our lives. 

Regardless of how you incorporate these ancient words into your Advent prayer life, let them speak to you, and maybe they will become part of your family traditions and part of your heart. 

December 17 

O Wisdom of our God Most High,
guiding creation with power and love: come to teach us the path of knowledge! 

December 18 

O Leader of the House of Israel,
giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai:
come to rescue us with your mighty power! 

December 19 

O Root of Jesse’s stem,
sign of God’s love for all his people: come to save us without delay! 

December 20 

O Key of David,
opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom: come and free the prisoners of darkness! 

December 21 

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. 

December 22 

O King of all nations and keystone of the Church: come and save man, whom you formed from the dust! 

December 23 

O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law: come to save us, Lord our God! 

With special thanks to Desiree Keys, Parish Administrator.

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