Thought for the Day – 17 December – Gaudete Sunday and the “O Antiphons” (17-24 December)
17 December marks the beginning of the “O” Antiphons an ancient part of our liturgy, dating back to the fourth century, one for each day until Christmas Eve. These antiphons address Christ with seven magnificent Messianic titles, based on the Old Testament prophecies and types of Christ. The Church recalls the variety of the ills of man before the coming of the Redeemer. The antiphons beg God with mounting impatience to come and save His people. The order of the antiphons climb climatically through our history of Redemption.
In the first, O Sapientia, O Wisdom, we take a backward flight into the recesses of eternity to address Wisdom, the Word of God.
In the second, O Adonai, O Lord of Israel, we have leaped from eternity to the time of Moses and the Law of Moses (about 1400 B.C.).
In the third, O Radix Jesse, O Root of Jesse, we have come to the time when God was preparing the line of David (about 1100 B.C.).
In the fourth, O Clavis David, O Key of David, we have come to the year 1000.
In the fifth, O Oriens, O Radiant Dawn, we see that the line of David is elevated so that the peoples may look on a rising star in the east and hence in the sixth, O Rex Gentium, O King of All Nations, we know that He is king of all the world of man.
This brings us to the evening before the vigil
and before coming to the town limits of Bethlehem,
we salute Him with the last Great O, O Emmanuel, God-with-us (from He Cometh by Fr McGarry).
As Elsa Chaney in Twelve Days of Christmas states, “They seem to sum up all our Advent longing as they paint in vivid terms the wretched condition of mankind and his need of a Saviour.”
The “O” Antiphons are the verses for the ancient hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel.
The first letter of the Messianic titles:
Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia—spell out Latin words ERO CRAS, meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come.”
A small and simple way to celebrate the great tradition of the “O Antiphons” is to add them to the your Advent Wreath prayer with your family.