Credit: usccb, fisheaters.com, catholiceducation.org
The “O Antiphons” (also called the Greater Antiphons or Major 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, a time which is called the Golden Nights, with Dec. 24 being Christmas Eve and Vespers for that evening being for the Christmas Vigil.
The Roman Church has been singing the O Antiphons since at least the eighth century. They are the antiphons that accompany the Magnificat canticle of Evening Prayer from December 17-23. They are a magnificent theology that uses ancient biblical imagery drawn from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming Christ as the fulfillment not only of Old Testament hopes, but present ones as well. Their repeated use of the imperative Come! embodies the longing of all for the Divine Messiah.
Each Antiphon begins with O and addresses Jesus with a unique title which comes from the prophecies of Isaias and Micheas (Micah), and whose initials, when read backwards, form an acrostic for the Latin Ero Cras which means Tomorrow I come.
These glorious titles for Christ are:
Adonai Lord of Israel
Radix Jesse Root of Jesse
Clavis David Key of David
Oriens Radiant Dawn, Dayspring
Rex Gentium King of all Nations, King of the Gentiles
Emmanuel God with us
O Wisdom of our God Most High,
guiding creation with power and love:
come to teach us the path of knowledge!
O Leader of the House of Israel,
giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai:
come to rescue us with your mighty power!
O Root of Jesse’s stem,
sign of God’s love for all his people:
come to save us without delay!
O Key of David,
opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom:
come and free the prisoners of darkness!
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.
O King of all nations and keystone of the Church:
come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!
O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law:
come to save us, Lord our God!