The O Antiphons @ Everyday Liturgy: Prayers for Advent

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.)

2 comments on “The O Antiphons @ Everyday Liturgy: Prayers for Advent

  1. Christi Williams says:

    1. I love this, and am glad I took a break from my mountain of grading to read it.

    2. I miss you. Knowing such a beautiful heart and mind exists “out there” does something to make my heart gladder. 🙂

    3. THANK YOU for the Sufjan Stevens link!

    4. Have you read or listened to Malcolm Guite’s Antiphon Sonnets? I love them, and love a lot of his stuff. It’s even better if you listen to him recite it. Here’s the link:

    • elizabeth says:

      Hi, Christi! So glad to hear from you.
      1. Breaks from grading are always a good idea!
      2. Miss you, too, my friend. I hope our paths cross again at some point.
      3. You’re welcome. I’ll confess that I am not the biggest fan of his music because I’m a fuddy duddy about some things. We had a housemate who tried to expand our musical horizons, but if I can’t sing along to something, I don’t tend to like to listen to it. This “O Come, O Come” is quite lovely though. It’s one of my favorites.
      4. I hadn’t heard of Malcolm Guite at all, actually. Thanks for the recommendation! His new book about prayer for the liturgical seasons looks quite good.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s