Among the richest treasures of Advent are the seven "O Antiphons." This series of ancient verses uses prophecy and biblical imagery to express our ever-present longing for Messiah. Beautifully poetic and theologically deep, the Great O Antiphons serve as the “heralds of Christmas," building a mood of eager expectation as Christmas Day approaches. A different antiphon is sung or chanted on each of the seven nights leading up to Christmas.
Great O Antiphons
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.
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.
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.
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.
O Morning Star,
splendor of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death.
O King of the nations, and their desire,
the cornerstone making both one:
Come and save the human race,
which you fashioned from clay.
O Emmanuel, our King and our lawgiver,
the hope of the nations and their Savior:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.
Preceded by the poetic “O” to express yearning and wonder, the antiphons all pray for Christ to come, each adding a different dimension to that prayer: teach, redeem, deliver, lead, enlighten, and save. (The prayer “Come and save” appears twice, surely because it is the deepest cry of our hearts.)