The O Antiphons

Royal doors of St. George's Orthodox Cathedral, Toledo.

Royal doors of St. George’s Orthodox Cathedral, Toledo.

A perennial favorite among Advent hymns, “O come, O come, Emmanuel” is a 19th century reworking of the “O Antiphons,” which accompany the saying of the Magnificat (Song of Mary) at Evening Prayer in the last week of Advent.

Whew! That’s a mouthful. Wait, what?

Try this:

You’re saying Evening Prayer tonight, right? Right.

You’ll say the Magnificat after the Gospel reading, right? Right.

Why not add a little touch of extra seasonal solemnity and use an antiphon before and after the Magnificat? It’ll read like this:

O Come, thou Wisdom from on high, who orderest all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in her ways to go.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; *
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed: *
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him *
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm, *
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, *
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things, *
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel, *
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
The promise he made to our fathers, *
to Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: *
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

O Come, thou Wisdom from on high, who orderest all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in her ways to go.

Tomorrow evening, you’ll use a different O Antiphon with the Magnificat, and so on for the next week leading up to Christmas Eve. Oh, that’s not so hard!

If you have an Episcopal Hymnal 1982, you can find hymn 56 which has the verses conveniently labeled with the date, but I am also including them here.

(Dec. 17) O come, thou Wisdom from on high, who orderest all things mightily;
to us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in her ways to go.

(Dec. 18) O come, O come, thou Lord of might, who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height
in ancient times didst gave the law, in cloud, and majesty, and awe.

(Dec. 19) O come, thou Branch of Jesse’s tree, free them from Satan’s tyranny;
that trust thy mighty power to save, and give them victory over the grave.

(Dec. 20) O come, thou Key of David, come, and open wide our heavenly home;
make safe the way that leads on high, and close the path to misery.

(Dec. 21) O come, thou Dayspring from on high, and cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadows put to flight.

(Dec. 22) O come, Desire of nations, bind in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid thou our sad divisions cease, and be thyself our King of Peace.

(Dec. 23) O come, O come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.

You’ll find a nice summary article about the O Antiphons here.

The O Antiphons are a lovely addition to the practice of the Daily Office during Advent. I hope they will enhance your prayers as you prepare to greet the coming of our Incarnate Lord at Christmas.

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