Column: ‘O Antiphons’ can help us prepare the way of the Lord

Michael Podrebarac is the archdiocesan consultant for the liturgy office.
Michael Podrebarac is the archdiocesan consultant for the liturgy office.

by Michael Podrebarac

Beginning tomorrow, and for the last seven days of Advent, the Latin Church enters into an even more focused liturgical reflection upon the coming of the Lord Jesus.

And in the Liturgy of the Hours, we pray what are commonly called the great “O Antiphons.” These ancient prayers date from the fifth century. Each evening, a different antiphon is recited or chanted at vespers, the church’s evening prayer.

Now, even if we don’t pray the Liturgy of the Hours, we can still make these antiphons part of our personal or family prayer on the evenings of Dec. 17 through 23. I have taken the liberty of translating them from the Latin as follows (although other translations and even their Latin chants are available online). They speak for themselves.

Dec. 17: O Wisdom, proceeding from God’s own mouth, and ordering all things as they should be: Come, and teach us the way of prudence.

Dec. 18: O Lord of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the burning bush, and gave him the law on Mount Sinai: Come, and redeem us with your mighty hand.

Dec. 19: O Root of Jesse, a sign for the peoples, before whom kings shall keep silent and gentiles shall offer supplication: Come, and deliver us, and do not delay.

Dec. 20: O Key of David, who locks, and no one can open; and unlocks, and no one can close: Come, and liberate those held captive in prisons of darkness and the shadow of death.

Dec. 21: O Morning Star, the splendor of eternal Light and the Sun of Righteousness: Come, and shine on those who dwell in death’s dark shadow.

Dec. 22: O King of the nations, their Desire and Cornerstone: Come, and save the human family, whom you have formed from the clay of the earth.

Dec. 23: O Emmanuel, God-with-us, our King and Lawgiver, the Expected of the nations, and the Savior of all: Come, and save us, O Lord our God.

The Advent hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is a poetic paraphrase of the “O Antiphons.” Simply chanting a verse each evening (beginning with verse 2 on Dec. 17 and ending with verse 1 on Dec. 23) will help us enter into that spirit of longing for the Lord’s coming which this holy season embraces.

The “O Antiphons” not only reflect the hope of God’s people in ancient times, but also our own contemporary hope — that Christ will come again, and soon. Following St. Paul’s instruction, let us together “await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of the great God and of our Savior Jesus Christ” (Ti 2:13).

Come quickly, Lord Jesus! Come, and deliver us! Come, and delay no longer!

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