O Antiphons

17 - 23 December

The Great O Antiphons

O Wisdom, which camest out of the mouth of the
Most High, come and teach us the way of

O Adonai, leader of the house of Israel, who
gavest the law in Sinai, come and deliver
us with an outstretched arm.

O Root of Jesse, whom the gentiles seek, come
and deliver us, and tarry not.

O Key of David, come and bring the prisoner out
of the prison-house.

O Dayspring, Brightness of Light Everlasting and
Sun of Righteousness, come and enlighten
him that sitteth in darkness and the
shadow of death.

O King of Nations, their desire and cornerstone,
come and save mankind, whom thou
formedst of clay.

O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Desire
of all nations and their Salvation, come
and save us, O Lord our God.

(abbreviated from seventh-eighth century monastic vespers)

The O Antiphons were composed by the eighth century. The first written witness documented: Anglosaxon, Cynewulf, eighth c. These are daily antiphons for the Magnificat at Vespers and are used in shortened form as Alleluia verses before the Gospel of the day. The O Antiphons are popularized in the hymn, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel."

The O Antiphons are seven distinct titles for Jesus Christ. The "O" is an exclamation of wonder (Analarius of Metz) about some wonderful vision of who Jesus Christ is. The Magnificat expresses gratitude due to this wondrous revelation.

The chart below outlines the content and intent of praise of the O Antiphons:



Divinity of Christ

Salvation History
(progressive unfolding)

Wisdom (1 Cor 1.20) [come]

Sapientia Disposes all things God creates world = creation
Lord/Ruler of Israel [come] Arbiter Imparts the law of Moses on Sinai God gives law to Israel
Root of Jesse [come] Radix Nations bow before him in worship Christ descendant of David = sign of the people
Key of David (Rev 3.7) [come] Clavis Opens and no one shall shut Christ descends into the underworld to liberate captives
Dawn [come] Origo Sun of Justice Splendor of Eternal Light Christ risen from the dead
King of Nations [come] Rex King of the Nations Christ unites Jews and Gentiles into one people of God
Emmanuel [come] Emmanuel Lord our God Christ, expectation of all Nations, looks forward to the second coming

Source for "The Great 'O' Antiphons" above: A Christmas Garland - A seasonal collection of readings, poetry and meditations from the Church of St. Francis de Sales, Hampton Hill.

This compilation is copyright Lynne Ferguson, who has asserted her rights to be identified as author. All rights reserved. No reproduction, by whatever means, is permissible without written consent. Much of the material included is also separately subject to copyright regulations under international law.  Reproduced here with her permission.


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