Tomorrow, the Church will begin praying what are known as the “O Antiphons” each evening during Vespers, or Evening Prayer. Outside of Vespers, the O Antiphons are more familiar in their adapted form as the verses for the quintessential Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”
Saturated with imagery from the Old Testament, the O Antiphons each highlight a different title of the Messiah. They intensify our preparations for the final days of Advent as they remind us with vivid clarity and luminous beauty of the reality that the Messiah is coming. Our God is coming to save us from death. From sin. From fear. From loneliness. From ourselves. And he is coming as Wisdom, as Lord, as Flower, as Key, as Dawn, as King, as God-with-us. The One whom the prophets foretold, the One for whom countless hearts have longed, upon whom innumerable eyes have yearned to gaze—he is coming. Soon, he is coming.
In these final days of Advent, with all of the busyness and the increase in obligations to family and friends, it can be easy to grow slack in the zeal of preparing for the coming of Christ. Praying the O Antiphons is a beautiful way to guard against this, to stay awake, to stand alert, to be found ready when God’s “all-powerful Word from heaven’s throne [will leap] into the doomed land” and reconcile all things by his coming (see Wisdom 18:15ff).
Marantha. Come, Lord Jesus.
Featured image: from The Poissy Antiphonal (1335-1345); public domain.