During the final days of Advent, the anticipation increases as the birth of the Savior draws near. In the seven evenings before Christmas this anticipation is marked by something special that happens in the prayers of the Church.
The antiphons of Evening Prayer (Vespers) during the week before Christmas welcome the birth of the Savior by heralding one of His resplendent Biblical titles along with a special petition in light of that title. These are referred to as the “O”Antiphons.
This ancient liturgical tradition started in the earliest centuries of the Church and continues today for all priests, deacons, religious communities, and those Catholic faithful who make the Divine Office part of their daily prayers.
The term “O Antiphon” refers to the seven antiphons that are prayed immediately before and after the Magnificat prayer during Evening Prayer (Vespers) of the Liturgy of the Hours (or the Divine Office). Each antiphon begins with the exclamation “O”, thus earning their popular name as the “O Antiphons.” They cover the special period of Advent preparation known as the Octave before Christmas, from Dec. 17-23, with Dec. 24 being Vespers of the Christmas Vigil.
The O Antiphons are special because each one emphasizes a different prophetic title of the Messiah as foreshadowed in the Old Testament by the prophet Isaiah: Wisdom, Lord, Root of Jesse, Key of David, Radiant Dawn, King of Nations, and Emmanuel.
Praying with the O Antiphons is a wonderful way to elevate our Advent as Christmas approaches, a beautiful way to reflect and meditate on who Christ really is, and a wonderful way to draw our heart closer to Christ each day!
I would like to encourage you to make this tradition part of your final preparations for Christmas this year as we prepare to welcome the newborn King into our world and our lives. Join us on this Retreat During Daily Life over the next seven days as we hear these ancient prayers and scripture passages proclaimed and take just a moment to reflect and pray on the coming of Christ into our world.
I hope you will join us in praying this ancient Advent tradition of the Church.
… and on behalf of the Christ Renews His Parish Ministry of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, may these final days of Advent be filled with Peace and Joy as you make room in this world for the birth of the King of Kings!
By Deacon Christopher Weiland
Lord God, Fill our hearts with desire And our minds with a longing to welcome you into our lives So that our actions will be pleasing to you. May your peace, which surpasses all understanding, guard our hearts and minds. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.