Wednesday, December 23, 2009


So, Advent is here and almost gone and this is my first Advent post. It has been a busy few weeks with the end of the semester and writing for fun has fallen by the wayside. Here is a short Advent post I wrote for school as part of a paper on using music and art to teach the faith. It is about the song "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" and how it uses the traditional "O Antiphons". 

The classic Advent hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, is composed of verses which originated in the “Great O Antiphons”, antiphons which were, and still are, recited during evening prayer before and after the singing of the Magnificat during the seven days prior to the Christmas Vigil. This song can be used to teach the attributes of Christ. The attributes are: Wisdom (Sapientia), Lord (Adonai), Root of Jesse (Radix Jesse), Key of David (Clavis David), Dayspring (Oriens), Longed for King (Rex), and Emmanuel (Emmanuel), and are taken from the Old Testament titles of the coming Messiah.

Some Scripture references for each title are:
Wisdom -- Proverbs 1:20; 8; 9
Lord -- Exodus 3, Micah 5:2
Root of Jesse -- Isaiah 11:10
Key of David -- Isaiah 22:22
Dayspring -- Luke 1:78, 79
King -- Psalm 118:22, Isaiah 28:16
Emmanuel -- Isaiah 7:14; 8:8

The antiphons are prayed in the listed order, and by taking the first letter of the Latin words and reversing it, one gets “ero cras” which translates to “I will be here tomorrow”. Obviously the early monks who first wrote the antiphons chose the order of the attributes deliberately. The antiphons also include a petition asking the Redeemer to come and bring us prudence, redemption, delivery, freedom from captivity, delivery (again), enlightenment, and to save us. These are all very important petitions which are taught by the use of the antiphons. By popularizing the antiphons into song, they were much more widely known, and gave the ordinary people a way of learning more about the Lord and his coming.

A good reference that I used is the blog "What Does the Prayer Really Say" and is found here.  Another blog that has been doing a series on the "O Antiphons" is The Anchoress . You will have to scroll through the posts to find them, but it is well worth it. She also includes music and video in the posts-- great!

I wish everyone a safe, Blessed, Holy Christmas.

Thank you for reading and I will see you after the New Year.

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