For the 7 days (or octave) before Christmas Eve the great 'O Antiphons' are recited or sung during vespers. Each antiphon highlights a title of the Messiah and refers to a prophecy from Isaiah. They are, in order:
Dec. 17 - O Sapientia (Wisdom)
O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other,
mightily and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.
Dec. 18 - O Adonai (Lord)
O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,
Who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush,
And gave him the law on Sinai:
Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.
Dec. 19 - O Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse)
O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples,
Before you kings will shut their mouths,
To you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.
Dec. 20 - O Clavis David (Key of David)
O Key of David and scepter of the House of Israel,
You open and no one can shut,
You shut and no one can open:
Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house, those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
Dec. 21 - O Oriens (Dayspring)
O Morning Star,
Splendor of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
Dec. 22 - O Rex Gentium (King of the nations)
O King of the Nations, and their desire,
The cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
Which you fashioned from clay.
Dec. 23 - O Emmanuel (God is with us)
O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
The hope of the nations and their Saviour:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.
If you take the first letter of each antiphon (after the 'O') from the bottom up, you get 'Ero Cras', which means 'Tomorrow, I will come’ in Latin.
I love the rich symbolism of each antiphon. I love the intensity of the buildup to Christmas that still allows us to ponder the attributes of Him who is coming. And I especially love how the intensity of the liturgical season mirrors the intensity of the real-life preparations going on right now. There is a reason we're all frantically cooking, cleaning, buying, thinking and preparing. We're like a "Martha" right now; busily making everything perfect and set for the Lord's coming. The O Antiphons help us not to forget "Mary" in the meantime and spend time pondering the Christ Child's presence.
|The Prophet Isaiah|