Intensifying our Preparation for Christmas with the Antiphons of Advent


One of the more striking hymns that everyone associates with Advent is O Come, O Come Emmanuel, which captures so beautifully the longing for the Messiah. It is one of the songs called the “O Antiphons,” each of which reveals some part of what God’s people have yearned for in their Savior.  The antiphons are traditionally sung at Evening Prayer and proclaimed in the daily Mass in the Alleluia verse before the Gospel from December 17 through December 23:

December 17:
O Wisdom of our God Most High, guiding creation with power and love:
Come to teach us the path of knowledge!

December 18:
O Leader of the House of Israel, giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai:
Come to rescue us with your mighty power!

December 19:
O Root of Jesse’s stem, sign of God’s love for all his people:
Come to save us without delay!

December 20:
O Key of David, opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom:
Come and free the prisoners of darkness.

December 21:
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.

December 22:
O King of all nations and keystone of the Church:
Come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!

December 23:
O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law:
Come to save us, Lord our God!

Intensifying our anticipation each day, the O Antiphons help prepare us spiritually for the newborn king, Jesus. Contemplating each antiphon individually or singing just one verse of O Come, O Come Emmanuel each day allows us to ponder, like Mary, the meaning of the glory of God becoming one of us and making his dwelling among us.

The king has come, and his kingdom is his presence in the world, manifested in the ordinary actions of every Christian.  With every prayer, work, joy and suffering, the kingdom comes.  That is how we live between the first coming of Christ and the second. We live with an expectation, confidence, and joy that we magnify as a Church every Advent.

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