Since the 8th century, the “O” antiphons have been proclaimed as part of the evening prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours from December 17-23. Each of these prayers begins with “O” and also includes the word “Come”. These are prayers that help us to even more deeply prepare for the coming of Christ. As we reflect on the words in each of these prayers, we recall Christ’s First Coming at His birth and then eagerly await Christ’s Second Coming at the end of time on the Last Day. Each of the “O” antiphons has rich, beautiful theological truths embedded in them drawing on various biblical themes of the Old Testament. Each of these Old Testament prophecies have been fulfilled in Christ’s first coming in Bethlehem but they also point us to Christ’s final Parousia (His final coming).
I am going to list the 7 “O” antiphons here and then each day I will post the associated antiphon with a reflection.
O Wisdom of our God Most High, guiding creation with power and love, come to teach us the path of knowledge!
O Adonai and Ruler of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the burning bush and gave him the Law on Sinai, come to rescue us with your mighty power!
O Root of Jesse’s stem, sign of God’s love for all His people, come to save us without delay!
O Key of David, opening the gates of God’s eternal kingdom, come and free the prisoners of darkness!
O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice, come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death!
O King of all nations and keystone of the Church, come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!
O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law, come to save us, Lord our God!
These beautiful reflections are also the foundation for the popular Christmas hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”. The words of each verse of this song are based on each of these 7 antiphons.
The words to the song “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” have slightly varying English translations and most songs do not sing all of the verses, but below are all of the words and verses to this traditional song.
O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that morns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear. Rejoice, rejoice, O Israel, to thee shall come Emmanuel!
O Come, Thou Wisdom from on high, and order all things mightily; to us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in her ways to go. Rejoice, rejoice, O Israel, to thee shall come Emmanuel!
O Come, o come, Thou Lord of might, who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height in ancient times did give the law, in cloud and majesty and awe. Rejoice, rejoice, O Israel, to thee shall come Emmanuel!
O Come, Thou Rod of Jesse’s stem, from ev’ry foe deliver them that trust Thy mighty power to save and give them vict’ry o’er the grave. Rejoice, rejoice, O Israel, to thee shall come Emmanuel!
O Come, Thou Key of David, come, and open wide our heav’nly home, make safe the way that leads on high, that we no more have cause to sigh. Rejoice, rejoice, O Israel, to thee shall come Emmanuel!
O Come, Thou Dayspring from on high, and cheer us by thy drawing nigh; disperse the gloomy clouds of night and death’s dark shadow put to flight. Rejoice, rejoice, O Israel, to thee shall come Emmanuel!
O Come, Desire of the nations, bind in one the hearts of all mankind; bid every strife and quarrel cease and fill the world with heaven’s peace. Rejoice, rejoice, O Israel, to thee shall come Emmanuel!
O Come, O come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel, that morns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.
Click on Link to listen to a beautiful version of this song: