My local church – Scots International Church Rotterdam – organised a series of evening services during the season of Advent this year to further explore our theme of “Light in the Darkness” through music, prayer and candle light.
On 11 December I incorporated a special focus on a liturgical treasure – the Advent Antiphons known as the Great Antiphons or ‘O’ Antiphons. It’s my privilege and delight to now share this liturgical treasure with you also.
‘O’ Antiphons: A brief introduction
This collection of prayers was in use in Rome by the 8th century. In seven various, but interrelated ways they voice the ultimate petition of Scripture — “Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20).
Seven was symbolic in ancient near eastern and Israelite culture and literature. It communicated a sense of “fullness” or “completeness”.
In the original Latin version the seven titles attributed to Jesus are: Sapientia, Adonai, Radix Jesse, Clavis David, Oriens, Rex Gentium, and Emmanuel. In reverse order they form an acrostic ERO CRAS which means “I am coming soon.”
Traditionally, one of these antiphons is said or chanted before and after the Magnificat (Mary’s Song, Luke 1:46-55) during the services of evening prayer on December 17 through 23, allowing each antiphon to cast its distinctive light on Mary’s rejoicing over the gracious acts of God to Israel that are being fulfilled through her.
Each antiphon has the same simple form:
- starts with the word ‘O’
- uses a striking Messianic title drawn from Israel’s prophetic writings to address God in Christ
- describes a gracious act of God
- offers a petition that flows from the description of Christ used
The great Advent hymn, “O come, O come, Emmanuel” (Latin: Veni, veni, Emmanuel) is a metrical paraphrase of the ‘O’ Antiphons.
For more on the history and significance of these ancient prayers go to www.baylor.edu (my primary source). Also check out the ‘O’ Antiphons Advent Liturgy held at Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle each year.
Now let us pray
The Seven Great O’s of Advent
O Wisdom, mysterious Word of God, coming forth from the Father and filling all creation with your life-giving power: Come and show us the way of truth.
O Lord of Israel, ruler of your ancient people, you appeared to Moses in the burning bush and gave the law on Mount Sinai: Come, and reach out your hand to save us.
O Root of Jesse, Son of David, you have been lifted up as a sign of peace, drawing all kings and people to stand silent in your presence: Come quickly and help us, we beseech you.
O Key of David, and sceptre of the house of Israel, you have opened to us the way of hope, and shut the door on the powers of evil: Come and free us from our prisons of darkness.
O Morning Star, radiance of the Father’s love, you are the brightness that disperses the shadows of our hearts: Come, cleanse and renew us in your glory.
O King of the Nations, you alone bring joy when you reign in our hearts, and you are the cornerstone of our lives: Come and strengthen us, who were formed by you.
O Emmanuel, God with us, hope of the world, and Saviour of all, come and live in us, now and for ever.
from The Book of a Thousand Prayers by Angela Ashwin, #717
From the blog
Check out the Index for more posts in the “School of prayer” series.