The Great "O" Antiphons

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"TOMORROW I WILL BE THERE!"

The Great "O" Antiphons of Advent December 17th to 23rd.

There are seven short verses sung before the Magnificat during Evening Prayer of the Church on the seven days before the vigil of Christmas. They each begin with the exclamation "O". Each of them ends with a plea for the Messiah to come. As Christmas approaches the cry becomes more urgent.

The antiphons were composed in the seventh or eighth century when monks put together texts from the Old Testament which looked forward to the coming of our salvation. They form a rich mosaic of scriptural images. These seven verses, or antiphons as they are called, appear to be the originals although from time to time other texts were used. They became very popular in the Middle Ages. While the monastic choirs sang the antiphons the great bells of the church were rung.

A curious feature of these antiphons is that the first letter of each invocation may be taken from the Latin to form an acrostic in reverse. So the first letters of Sapientia, Adonai, Radix, Clavis, Oriens, Rex, and Emmanuel, provide the Latin words: ERO CRAS . The phrase spells out the response of Christ himself to the heartfelt prayer of his people:

"TOMORROW I WILL BE THERE".

Why not join with the Prayer of the Church each evening and reflect on these words preparing for Christmas day by day?

You can download a prayer companion by clicking on the PDF documents on the right.

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