בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לזְּמַן הַזֶּה.

Bārūch atāh Adonai Elohênū melekh ha`ôlām šeheḥeyānû veqîmānû vehigî`ānû lazman hazeh

Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, king of the universe, who hast given us life and sustained us and brought us to this season

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Awaiting the Coming Messiah: The "O Antiphons"

The Poissy Antiphonal, Wikimedia Commons
Beginning on either December 17 in the Roman Catholic tradition or December 16 in the Anglican tradition, a series of antiphons, or responsive songs, that focus on the coming Christ are added to evenings prayers.  These antiphons are of considerable antiquity, being attested as early as the sixth century A.D.  They took their present form in Western Christianity when Benedictine monks included them in their Advent liturgy.

Because each one of the seven beings with the interjection "O!," they are commonly called "O Antiphons."  Each one takes a name or title of the Messiah from scripture, particularly from the prophecies of Isaiah.  The titles are as follows:
  • Sapientia (Wisdom; see Proverbs 8:1, 22–32)
  • Adonai (Lord; see Isaiah 43:1–7)
  • Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse; see Isaiah 11:1–9)
  • Clavis David (Key of David; see Isaiah 22:20–24)
  • Oriens (Day-star; see Isaiah 42:1–7; Luke 1:78)
  • Rex gentium (King of the Nations; see Isaiah 45:8–13; Jeremiah 10:7)
  • Emmanuel (Immanuel or "God with us"; see Isaiah 33:20–22 and Isaiah 7:14)
The first letters of each title form an acronym, which, when read backwards, reads ero cras, Latin for "I will come tomorrow."

The hymn "O Come, O Come Emmanuel," the preeminent Advent carol that opens the season on the first Sunday of Advent, is a metrical paraphrase of the O Antiphons.




Below appear the traditional, sometimes loose, English translations of the antiphons followed by the corresponding verse of "O Come, O Come Emmanuel."

December 17: O Sapientia.

O Wisdom, who didst issue out of the mouth of the most High, and dost reach from one end of the world to the other, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.

                    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.
                        Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
                        Shall come to thee, O Israel!
                   
                    See Proverbs 8:1, 22–32


 





December 18: O Adonai
   
O Lord and Ruler of the house of Israel, who didst appear to Moses in a burning bush, and didst give him the law on Sinai: Come and deliver us with an outstretched arm.

                    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.
                        Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
                        Shall come to thee, O Israel!

                    See Isaiah 43:1–7






December 19: O Radix Jesse

O Root of Jesse, who standest for an ensign to the peoples, at whom kings shall shut their mouths, and to whom the Gentiles shall pray: Come and deliver us, and do not delay.

                    O come, thou Rod of Jesse's stem,
                    From every foe deliver them
                    That trust thy mighty power to save,
                    And give them vict'ry o'er the grave.
                        Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
                        Shall come to thee, O Israel!

                    See Isaiah 11:1–9





December 20: O Clavis David

O Key of David, and Scepter of the house of Israel; who openest and no one shutteth, who shuttest and no one openeth: come and bring the prisoners out of the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.

                    O come, thou Key of David, come,
                    And open wide our heav'nly home;
                    Make safe the way that leads on high,
                    And close the path to misery.           
                        Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
                        Shall come to thee, O Israel!

                    See Isaiah 22:20–24
 





December 21: O Oriens

O Day-Spring, radiant everlasting Light, and Sun of Righteousness: Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.

                    O come, thou Day-spring from on high,
                    And cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
                    Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
                    And death's dark shadow put to flight.           
                        Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
                        Shall come to thee, O Israel!   

                    See Isaiah 42:1–7; Luke 1:78





December 22: O Rex gentium

O King of the Nations, and their Desire; the Cornerstone who dost unite the divided into one: Come and save mankind, whom thou didst create out of clay.
   
                    O come, Desire of nations, bind
                    In one the hearts of all mankind;
                    Bid thou our sad divisions cease,
                    And be thyself our King of Peace.           
                        Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
                        Shall come to thee, O Israel!   
                   
                    See Isaiah 45:8–13; Jeremiah 10:7





December 23: O Emmanuel

O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the One whom the Gentiles expect, and their Salvation: Come and save us, O Lord our God.

                    O come, O come, Emmanuel,
                    And ransom captive Israel,
                    That mourns in lonely exile here
                    Until the Son of God appear.           
                        Refrain: Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
                        Shall come to thee, O Israel!   

                    See Isaiah 33:20–22 and Isaiah 7:14


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