The Roman Church has been singing the “O” Antiphons since at least the eighth century. They are the antiphons that accompany the Magnificat canticle of Evening Prayer from December 17-23. They are a magnificent theology that uses ancient biblical imagery drawn from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming Christ as the fulfillment not only of Old Testament hopes, but present ones as well. Their repeated use of the imperative “Come!” embodies the longing of all for the Divine Messiah.
As noted above, monks from earliest times wrote beautiful short stanzas of a hymn that they would sing during the Octave before Christmas. The Church would sing the stanzas before and after reciting or sing the hymn of Mary, the Magnificat, found in Luke 1: 46-55, sung during Vespers each evening.
Each antiphon, (a short verse), starts with an “O” followed by a Name of the long-awaited Messiah – Who was the source of all hope and longing for His Chosen people, Israel, in the Old Testament. The people of Israel had rejected God’s covenant, which resulted in them being crushed by the Babylonians and seemingly abandoned by God as they were forced to live in exile from their beloved and Holy City and Temple of Jerusalem.
During these 70 years of captivity, God spoke through the prophet Isaiah — promising His People a Savior, born of a virgin, Who would be called Emmanuel, a name meaning: “God With Us!”
This Promised Savior would lead His Chosen People back from their evil, gathering them together so they could again love and serve God in Jerusalem.
Isaiah, also revealed that the Messiah, whom they so longed for, was:
1. The same God Who created and governed the universe – the Wisdom and Word from on High.
2. The Holy Lord of Mt. Sinai Who revealed Himself in the burning bush as an non-consuming, unquenchable fire; and Who, later on the same mountain, would give His Chosen People the Ten Commandments – the Law of God – so they would know what actions would bring LIFE or to Death to them (what would lead them toward or away from God).
3. The Son of David, the shoot Who would come from David’s father Jesse, Who was promised to sit on His David’s throne and rule in justice forever.
4. The Key of David, Who alone could open up the gates of the kingdom of heaven by destroying the power of sin and death that kept God’s children from eternal glory.
5. The Radiant Dawn, Who’s Light shatters the darkness of sin and death.
6. The King of All Nations Who would draw all people to Himself – including Gentiles and non- believers — into One just and glorious, everlasting kingdom.
7. The Promised Emmanuel, Who would ransom all who were held captive, and would be the fulfillment of all the Covenantal promises and prophesies of God.
As we ponder the following verses, dear Mary, help us acknowledge their richness and help us unpack the Scripture they teach, as they remind us how Jesus perfectly fulfilled God’s promises and the seven-fold names or titles of the Messiah given through the prophet Isaiah.
Holy Spirit, come to us to help us, imbue each verse of this beautiful hymn so that it resonates within us, helping us to recognize and cherish how Jesus continues to fulfill all the Promises of God in our lives.
All you holy ancient saints, help us long for Jesus and beg Him to come to us as you so desperately longed for the Savior!
Helix Nebula – a photographic image that beautifully represents the eye of God
SING: O Come, Thou Wisdom, from on high,
and order all things far and nigh; to us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in her ways to go.
O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem fortiter, suaviter disponensque omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.
O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care: Come and show your people the way to salvation.
The Key of David breaking down the prison of Hades
SING: O Come, Thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heav’nly home, make safe the way that leads on high, that we no more have cause to sigh.
O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel, qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperuit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.
O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel, controlling at your will the gate of heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.