From now until Christmas the O Antiphons are the Advent call for the coming of the Messiah, at Christmas and at the eschaton - the last of days. Each antiphon begins with the interjection "O," an exclamation of hope, expectance, excitement, and need. Each antiphon culminates with a call for the Messiah to come. As Christmas draws nigh, the cry beckons more urgently.
Originally composed in 7th- or 8th-century C.E. by monks who merged texts from the Hebrew Testament with the hopes of the New Testament, the antiphons were meant to help the world look to the coming of salvation in Christ Jesus - then, now, and in the future. Popular in the Middle Ages, when monastic choirs sang the antiphons in chorus with the great bells of cathedrals, the antiphons are also an acrostic. Together, the antiphons weave a rich tapestry of scriptural metaphors and images and provide a masterful mosaic of meditations leading up to the celebration of Christmas.
Yet the cries for the coming of Christ do not fall on deaf ears. There is a response embedded in the orations as well. The first Latin letter of each invocation (backwards) forms the phrase ero cras (Emmanuel - Rex - Oriens | Clavis - Radix - Adonai - Sapientia). The line is, indeed, the response of Christ to the calls of Advent, "Tomorrow, I will be there."
With that response assured, let us together pray aloud and think upon the "O Antiphons" over the subsequent seven days. Each day until Christmas I will be posting an O Antiphon with its full verse and an image to meditate upon.
And so, an expectant Advent and a Happy Christmas to all of you!
"O Wisdom, proceeding from the mouth of the Most High, pervading and permeating all creation, mightily ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence."
O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodidisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviter disponensque omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.