What are the O Antiphons?

Our Daily Advent Evening Prayer for the coming week will focus on the "O Antiphons" from the Liturgy of the Hours. You are familiar with these antiphons as the verses of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel."

On each of the coming seven days our Evening Prayer here will include: a video of that day's O Antiphon sung in Gregorian chant; a translation of the day's antiphon and the corresponding verse from "O Come, Emmanuel"; some supporting scripture texts from the prophet Isaiah; a prayer; and another musical selection (instrumental) for your Advent reflection. (Although the video of the antiphons was posted in 2006, the same antiphons are used every year.)

Fr. William Saunders offers us some background on the origin of these texts:
The “O Antiphons” refer to the seven antiphons that are recited (or chanted) preceding the Magnificat during Vespers of the Liturgy of the Hours. They cover the special period of Advent preparation known as the Octave before Christmas, Dec. 17-23, with Dec. 24 being Christmas Eve and Vespers for that evening being for the Christmas Vigil.

The exact origin of the “O Antiphons” is not known. Boethius (c. 480-524) made a slight reference to them, thereby suggesting their presence at that time. At the Benedictine abbey of Fleury (now Saint-Benoit-sur-Loire), these antiphons were recited by the abbot and other abbey leaders in descending rank, and then a gift was given to each member of the community. By the eighth century, they are in use in the liturgical celebrations in Rome. The usage of the “O Antiphons” was so prevalent in monasteries that the phrases, “Keep your O” and “The Great O Antiphons” were common parlance. One may thereby conclude that in some fashion the “O Antiphons” have been part of our liturgical tradition since the very early Church.

The importance of “O Antiphons” is twofold: Each one highlights a title for the Messiah: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Rising Sun), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), and O Emmanuel. Also, each one refers to the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah...

(complete article)


1 comment:

  1. Here I am writing as a nomad again! In 2006 I went to the above-mentioned Benedictine Abbey at St-Benoit-sur-Loire. I was just starting out on what turned out to be five weeks cycling in the Loire area. I was staying in my first French camping ground in a nearby village, and felt very proud of myself that I managed to use the Topo Maps to find a quiet route to get to the abbey. I don't remember a lot about the abbey actually, mainly I remember being glad I managed to find it!!!


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