The final week of Advent has a simple way of upping the ante just a touch, as preparation for Christ’s coming hits it highest pitch. On the evening of December 17 the final phase of preparation for Christmas begins with the first of the great “O Antiphons” of Advent. These prayers, one for each day until Christmas Eve, seem to sum up all our Advent longing for the Savior.
These short “O”prayers, sung in monasteries and masses around the world, since the seventh century, have a twofold aim:
- They highlight a title of the waited-for Messiah.
- They refer to one of Isaiah’s prophecies looking ahead to the divine arrival.
While the phrase “O Antiphons” will be unknown to many of us who grew up inside Evangelical circles, we might feel a strange familiarity as we pray these prayers over the week ahead. The reason? They are woven in to many of of the lyrics of the classic and moving carol, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”.
Some families, intent on deepening the Christ-focus of Christmas within their homes, have used an “O Antiphon House”, similar to an Advent Calendar or a Jesse Tree, in which each day is marked in a way that children and parents can share together.
Each evening this week, we will post the appropriate “O Antiphon” prayer. Perhaps these ancient prayers can fill your final thoughts each day, as we near the manger one more time.