Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
My favourite Advent hymn is O Come, O Come, Emmanuel. The haunting melody and the mysterious words combine to make a profound impact on the soul. The hymn is adapted from the “O Antiphons” which are sung or recited before and after the Magnificat during Vespers from December 17th to the 23rd, and during the Alleluia at Mass on the same days. Each of the seven antiphons highlights a different Messianic title taken from the writings of the prophet Isaiah:
O Wisdom, Who didst come out of the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: come and teach us the way of prudence.
O Adonai, and Leader of the house of Israel, Who didst appear to Moses in the flame of the burning bush, and didst give unto him the Law on Sinai: come and with an outstretched arm redeem us.
O Root of Jesse, Who dost stand for an ensign of the people, before Whom kings shall keep silence, and unto Whom the Gentiles shall make their supplication: come to deliver us, and tarry not.
O Key of David and Sceptre of the house of Israel, Who dost open and no man doth shut, Who dost shut and no man doth open, come and bring forth from his prisonhouse the captive that sitteth in darkness and in the shadow of death.
O Dawn of the East, Brightness of the Light Eternal and Sun of Justice, come and enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
O King of the Gentiles and the Desired of them, Thou Cornerstone that dost make both one, come and deliver man, whom Thou didst form out of the dust of the earth.
O Emmanuel. our King and Lawgiver, the Expected of the Nations and their Saviour, come to save us, O Lord our God.
I imagine you’ve clued in to why they’re referred to as the “O” antiphons!
What’s less obvious to us English-speaking folk, but is way cooler, is the secret message embedded in the O Antiphons in the Latin. The first letter of each Messianic Title, when read in reverse order, spells out a short Latin phrase:
That is, “Tomorrow,” (i.e., Christmas Eve) “I come!”
In this final week before Christmas, I encourage you to take the time to meditate on the day’s O Antiphon in order to prepare your heart for His coming.
- December 17: O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
- December 18: O Adonai (O Lord)
- December 19: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
- December 20: O Clavis David (O Key of David)
- December 21: O Oriens (O Dayspring)
- December 22: O Rex Gentium (O King of the nations)
- December 23: O Emmanuel (O With us is God)
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