If you’re like me and grew up with little knowledge of liturgical practices (okay, no knowledge of liturgical practices) you may not know what the “O Antiphons” are. I sure as heck didn’t until a few years ago.
But if you know the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” then you actually do know them.
I love that hymn, mainly because it is truly an Advent song. In fact, we have a handful of renditions of “O Come” on our Advent playlist, including this super hipster version. (Advent playlists, you ask? Pshaw. We embrace our liturgical nerdiness.)
“O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is a hymn version of the traditional O Antiphons. The O Antiphons are appeals to Christ to come into the world and fulfill scriptural promises. Think of the verses of “O Come”–each one calls Christ by a different name (Emmanuel, Root of Jesse, Dayspring, Wisdom) and requests that he get on with it. Come into the world already! We need you!
Alright, so they’re not nearly that desperate. But they are appeals to Christ. We call them the “O Antiphons” because (a) each of them begins with “O” and (b) they were traditionally sung congregational responses used in Advent services during the last seven days before Christmas. (An “antiphon” is simply any sung response.)
They are, of course, deeply rooted in Scripture and can be valuable even today as individual prayers or meditations as Christmas approaches.
Thomas Turner, over at Everyday Liturgy, has done a lovely job adapting the traditionally King-Jamesy O Antiphons into poetic prayers. You might consider adding these simple prayers (they’re brief–only 7 or 8 lines each) to your days during the week before Christmas.
Or, heck, today.
Conveniently, Thomas has just today made them available in e-reader format for free. Go here to grab yours.
(Alternately, if you don't have an e-reader, you can still access Thomas's lovely renditions of the traditional O Antiphons on his website here.)