The New O Antiphons

Our sermon series for Advent and Christmastide this year is The New O Antiphons, but to understand what the New O Antiphons are, you first need to know what the Old O Antiphons are.

An antiphon is simply a sung response, and The Great O Antiphons is a series of seven prayers, each invoking the name of Jesus by a messianic title taken from the Hebrew Scriptures.  In the traditional liturgy of the Roman Catholic Church, a choir would chant one of the prayers on the last seven days of Advent (December 17-23).  The Great O Antiphons is the origin of the beloved Advent hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

One of the reasons this hymn is so sacred to most Christians during December is that the text is covered with the patina of great age.  The prayers date back at least as far as the reign of Charlemagne in the ninth century and are sometimes attributed to Gregory the Great (540–604). During our approach to Christmas each year, this hymn of ancient origin tolls our imaginations like a bell.  

Inspired by The Great O Antiphons, Diane Tucker, an accomplished poet from Vancouver, recently wrote 40 New O Antiphons.  In both Old and New, the prayer begins with a clever description of Jesus, which helps us to see his person and office in a new and specific way (“O Come Thou Key of David”), followed by an earnest petition that he intervene on our behalf (“And open wide our heavenly home”). 

This Advent and Christmastide, we’ll take eight of Ms. Tucker’s New O Antiphons as our inspiration for divine worship.

Here are the original seven Great O Antiphons:

1 O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
shall come to thee, O Israel.

2 O come, thou Wisdom from on high,
who orderest all things mightily:
to us the path of knowledge show;
and teach us in her ways to go.

3 O come, O come, thou Lord of might,
who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height
in ancient times didst give the law
in cloud and majesty and awe.

4 O come, thou Root of Jesse, free
thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
from depths of hell thy people save
and give them victory o’er the grave.

5 O come, thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heavenly home;
make safe the way that leads on high,
and close the path to misery.

6 O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death’s dark shadows put to flight.

7 O come, Desire of nations, bind
all peoples in one heart and mind;
bid envy, strife, and discord cease;
fill the whole world with heaven’s peace.

Click here to receive 40 daily prayers of the New O Antiphons in your email this Advent, (these prayers will not appear on social media).

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And here are the eight New O Antiphons we’ll be looking at this Advent and Christmastide:

November 19
Advent I
Mark 1: 1–8O Loud and Lavish Lover of the awkward…
November 23
John 6:26–35O Lord, Curator of creation’s bounty…
November 26
Advent II
Colossians 1:15–20
Job 12:7–8
O Lord, who thought up kangaroos and cacti…
December 3
Advent III
John 2:1–12O Prince of Life, Bridegroom to the Bride…
December 10
Advent IV
Choral Music
Luke 1:46–55O God of words and music, we give thanks…
December 17
Solstice 12/21 Thurs
Advent V
Lessons & Carols
Isaiah 9:2–7O Jesus Christ, down in the winter solstice…
December 19
Quiet Christmas
Psalm 147: 3–5,
8–11, and 15–18
O Spiller of Rain, Scatterer of Snow
December 24
Christmas Eve
Luke 2:1–20O Lord of every path and passage way…
November 14, 2023

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