Script lettering: O Antiphons

O Antiphons

Ann Moyer Homepage, Monastic Life, Prayer & Worship 2 Comments

large script letter OIn the monastic Liturgy of the Hours (morning, midday and evening prayers of the community), antiphons are sung as an introduction and a response to readings of the psalms, the heart of our liturgy, and before and after the Benedictus at the end of morning prayer and the Magnificat at the end of evening prayer. During the last days of Advent we change to special antiphons, the O Antiphons, to accompany the Magnificat, Mary’s song of joy and humility. Sung each evening at the end of evening prayer, they provide an additional layer of hope and expectation.

The origin of the O Antiphons is unclear, but there is evidence of their use in Benedictine monasteries as early as the 5th century, and in the wider Church of Rome in the 8th century. They appear in these liturgies in the final week before Christmas. Each antiphon lifts a different name or title for the Messiah: O Wisdom, O Leader/Adonai, O Root of Jesse, O Key of David, O Radiant Dawn, O Ruler, O Emmanuel. In addition, the first letter of the Latin for each antiphon, from last to first, spells out “Ero cras,” or “Tomorrow I come.” One may imagine that these additions to the liturgy provided (and still provide) an additional focal point for prayer and meditation as the faithful travel through that final week toward Bethlehem.

We invite you to incorporate the O Antiphons into your Advent journey. Gathered in this blog are the texts of the antiphons we sing at Holy Wisdom Monastery. Text and music is adapted from the traditional Latin antiphons by Colleen Winston, OSB, St Walburg Monastery, KY. Brief suggestions for meditation written by Joan Chittister, OSB, follow each antiphon.

O Wisdom

newspaper-lectio-2-crO Wisdom of our God Most High,
guiding creation with power and love:
come teach us to walk in the paths of knowledge.

“Wisdom: the ability to see the world as God sees it. Try reading the newspaper today through the eyes of a God who was born in a stable, counted to be of no account, hounded by society from one place to another.” – Joan Chittister, OSB

 O Leader

Cross & candleO Adonai, leader of the House of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the burning bush
and gave him the law on Mount Sinai:
come with open arms to set us free.

“When we build a vision of life it is necessary to realize that Jesus must be the center of it – not our institutions, good as they may be; not our plans or personal talents, necessary as they are.” – Joan Chittister, OSB


 O Root of Jesse

generationsO Root of Jesse’s stem,
you stand as a sign among the peoples;
to you all nations cry for help;
before you rulers stand in silence:
come to save us, do not delay.

“It takes generations to build the Christ vision in the world, just as it took generations after Jesse to prepare for the coming of the Christ. It is our task to root ideas now that will bring the next generation to wholeness.”
Joan Chittister, OSB

(photo by Gregory Bleck)

 O Key of David

Sunday Assembly ecumenical worshipers holding eachother's hands in prayerO Key of David,
scepter of the house of Israel:
you open and no one closes;
you close, and no one opens.
come free the prisoners in darkness and the shadow of death.

“We are called to the kind of Christian commitment that opens doors and breaks down barriers between people, that brings unity to a divided world. Try to unlock one door that is keeping someone locked out of your heart.” – Joan Chittister, OSB

(photo by Nick Wilkes)

 O Radiant Dawn

Mothering_Fathering GodO Radiant Dawn,
splendor of eternal light and sun of justice:
come illumine those lost in the darkness
and the shadow of death.

“The celebration of the God of Growth in our lives – those moments of insight in which life comes newly alive in me – helps us to recognize those moments of insight in which life comes newly alive and I begin to see differently, to live differently, to function differently. A new friend, a new work, a new idea are all ‘radiant dawns’ in life that can enable me to become more than I ever dreamed I could.” – Joan Chittister, OSB

(photo by Gregory Bleck)

 O Ruler

2013 Christmas card art by Rosy KandathilO Ruler
and hope of all nations,
cornerstone uniting all as one:
come save the people you formed from the earth.

“We are not the beginning and the end of the universe. We are part of a vision of humankind, seen in Jesus, and yet to be achieved in us, a vision of global sharing, universal peace and individual security.” – Joan Chittister, OSB

(artwork by Rosy Kandathil, OSB)

 O Emmanuel

nativity 3O Emmanuel,
God’s presence among us,
our Ruler, our Judge:
come to save us, O Christ, our God.

“Jesus Emmanuel has already come. It is not a matter now of Christ’s being where we are; it is a matter of our being in the consciousness of where Christ is in life and where He is not as well. Where is Christ for you? Is there a place in your life that you know down deep is not in the spirit of Christ at all?” – Joan Chittister, OSB


Comments 2

  1. This is my favorite time of the year and the time of the O Antiphons fill me with great anticipation. While we sing the O Antiphons the tower bells ring the time of the Magnificat announcing the come of the Lord, Get ready.

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