One of the Church’s ancient liturgical traditions, dating back to at least the 8th century, is the use of the “O Antiphons” for this final week of Advent — our final preparation for the coming of Christ at Christmas. Each of these antiphons points to a Scriptural title of Christ found in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. It would be a good preparation for Christmas to meditate on these ancient texts:
- O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
- reaching from one end to the other,
- mightily and sweetly ordering all things:
- Come and teach us the way of prudence.
- O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,
- who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
- and gave him the law on Sinai:
- Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.
- O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
- before you kings will shut their mouths,
- to you the nations will make their prayer:
- Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.
- O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;
- you open and no one can shut;
- you shut and no one can open:
- Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,
- those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
- O Morning Star,
- splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
- Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
- O King of the nations, and their desire,
- the cornerstone making both one:
- Come and save the human race,
- which you fashioned from clay.
- O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
- the hope of the nations and their Saviour:
- Come and save us, O Lord our God.
Do these “O Antiphons” seem vaguely familiar? They are the basis for the Latin/English hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel!”