On the evening of December 17 the final phase of preparation for Christmas begins with the first of the great “O Antiphons” of Advent.
There are seven prayers in the form of liturgical songs, one for each day until Christmas Eve.
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!
—From Catholic Household Blessings & Prayers
Rooted in the Old Testament
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. Ancient biblical imagery drawn from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament are used to proclaim the coming Christ as the fulfillment of Old Testament hopes. Their repeated use of the imperative “Come!” embodies the longing of all for the Divine Messiah.
Learn and pray the “O Antiphons.” These beautiful prayers date back to the 8th century A.D. You’ll recognize them as part of the hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel.