O Antiphons: Come, Redeemer, Come!

Louis J. Tofari

 

One of the unique customs during the liturgical season of Advent are the profoundly symbolic Antiphonae Majores that cry for the coming of the Savior. Popularly known as the "O Antiphons", they are sung at Vespers for the Magnificat during the last seven days prior to the Vigil of the Nativity.

 

The “O Antiphons” can be traced to at least the 6th century, though the Messianic references or symbols of Jesus Christ are derived from Sacred Scripture, particularly the Old Testament book of Isaiah.

 

A curiosity of the "O Antiphons" is that the first letters of the antiphons' titles in reverse order (i.e., from last to first), Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia, spells "ERO CRAS". This is a Latin acrostic (or word puzzle) that means "Tomorrow, I will come" in reference to the awaited advent of the Messiah on December 25.

 

In order to offer a better appreciation of this special Advent preparation for Christmas, below are videos featuring the chanting of each “O Antiphon”, complete with the day on which it is sung, the Gregorian notation and Latin wording with the text of its English translation following.

​O Sapientia

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from one end to the other, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.

O Adonai

O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.

 

O Radix Jesse

O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples; before you kings will shut their mouths, to you the nations will make their prayer: Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.

 

O Clavis David

O Key of David and scepter of the House of Israel; you open and no one can shut; you shut and no one can open: Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house, those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

O Oriens

O Morning Star, splendor of light eternal and sun of righteousness: Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

 

​O Rex Gentium

O King of the nations, and their desire, the cornerstone making both one: Come and save the human race, which you fashioned from clay.

 

​O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver, the hope of the nations and their Savior: Come and save us, O Lord our God.

Attribution: my appreciation to Stephan George for the Gregorian Chant resources he has made available via his YouTube channel.

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