Thursday, December 16, 2010

December 17th and the start of the "O" Antiphons

Tomorrow, December 17th - those of us who pray the breviary will be praying the "O Antiphons" of Advent before we pray the Magnificat in Evening Prayer.  This should serve as a beautiful meditation.  Also, today we begin the Christmas Novena.  Don't worry about jumping in late!

If you pray the breviary, this may have escaped your notice.  If you don't pray the breviary, perhaps you can follow Vespers (Evening Prayer) for the next 7 days at  This is a good, free site to use if you want to see what the breviary/divine office is all about. 

Fr. William Saunders explains the "O Antiphons" of Advent"...

The “O Antiphons” refer to the seven antiphons that are recited (or chanted) preceding the Magnificat during Vespers of the Liturgy of the Hours. They cover the special period of Advent preparation known as the Octave before Christmas, Dec. 17-23, with Dec. 24 being Christmas Eve and Vespers for that evening being for the Christmas Vigil.
The exact origin of the “O Antiphons” is not known. Boethius (c. 480-524) made a slight reference to them, thereby suggesting their presence at that time. At the Benedictine abbey of Fleury (now Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire), these antiphons were recited by the abbot and other abbey leaders in descending rank, and then a gift was given to each member of the community. By the eighth century, they are in use in the liturgical celebrations in Rome. The usage of the “O Antiphons” was so prevalent in monasteries that the phrases, “Keep your O” and “The Great O Antiphons” were common parlance. One may thereby conclude that in some fashion the “O Antiphons” have been part of our liturgical tradition since the very early Church.

The importance of “O Antiphons” is twofold: Each one highlights a title for the Messiah: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Rising Sun), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), and O Emmanuel. Also, each one refers to the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah. Let’s now look at each antiphon with just a sample of Isaiah’s related prophecies : [follow the link to read details of each of these by Fr. Saunders at CERC]

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