Slipping in almost unnoticed, like a jolly old gift-bearer, the ‘O Antiphons’ arrive in the days just before Christmas.
They bless our evening prayer throughout the last week of Advent…just as they have done since at least the eighth century in the Roman Catholic Church.
But the graces these antiphons reveal are in fact much more ancient – drawn from the messianic promises found throughout the Hebrew scriptures…promises recorded many hundreds of years before the Christ child was actually born in Bethlehem.
In the ‘O Antiphons,’ we are encouraged to call God by many evocative – and mysterious – names.
O Wisdom of our God Most High, guiding creation with power and love: come to teach us the path of knowledge!
O Leader of the House of Israel, giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai:
come to rescue us with your mighty power!
O Root of Jesse’s stem, sign of God’s love for all his people:
come to save us without delay!
O Key of David, opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom:
come and free the prisoners of darkness!
O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the
shadow of death.
O King of all nations and keystone of the Church:
come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!
O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law:
come to save us, Lord our God!
We savor the mystery – lifting our eyes and our hearts to cherish the promise of the God who has been our refuge from generation to generation…[since] before the mountains were born or the earth or the world were brought forth… (Psalm 90: 1-4)
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.