The Great 'O's

O Sapientia - 16th December (29th December)
O Wisdom! which camest out of the mouth of the Most High, and reachest from one end to another, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: come, and teach us the way of prudence.

O Adonai - 17th December (30th December)
O Adonai, and Leader of the house of Israel, who appearedst in the bush to Moses in a flame of fire, and gavest him the law in Sinai: come, and deliver us with an outstretched arm.

O Radix Jesse - 18th December (31st December)
O Root of Jesse, which standest for an ensign of the people, at whom kings shall shut their mouths, to whom the Gentiles shall seek: come, and deliver us, and tarry not.

O Clavis David - 19th December (1st January)
O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel; that openest and no man shutteth; and shuttest and no man openeth: come, and bring the prisoner out of the prison-house, and him that sitteth in darkness, and the shadow of death.

O Oriens - 20th December (2nd January)
O Dayspring! Brightness of Light everlasting, and Sun of Righteousness: come, and enlighten him that sitteth in darkness, and the shadow of death.

O Rex Gentium - 21st December (3rd January)
O King of the nations, and their desire; the Corner-stone, who makest both one: come, and save mankind, whom thou formedst of clay.

O Emmanuel - 22nd December (4th January)
O Emmanuel, our King and Law-giver, the Desire of all nations, and their Salvation: come, and save us, O Lord, our God.

O Virgo Virginum - 23rd December (5th January)
O Virgin of Virgins! how shall this be? For neither before thee was any like unto thee, nor shall there be after. Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me? The thing which ye behold is a divine mystery.

These are the antiphons sung on the Magnificat at Vespers during the last days of Advent. (There is no Advent antiphon for the 24th of December as, obviously, Vespers on this day is the first Vespers of Christmass).

These antiphons have never been at all times and in all places the same. What I have posted here follows the tradition of the British Isles. Even the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, which did away with the use of antiphons on the canticles, still lists the 16th of December as O Sapientia in its kalendar. The Roman tradition was - and still is - to follow the same order but beginning one day later, omitting the final antiphon in honour of the Mother of God. There are other and varied orders and antiphons but the principle is the same, and one that I find very lovely indeed: that we call upon Our Lord and God to come among us, calling to mind his various energies and manifestations as He operates within the created order.

We start with God as divine Wisdom; the seed planted within the heart of man as we are made in his image, coming to fruition at the full realisation of the likeness of God within us, in which the Incarnation plays an essential part. We then call upon God as the fulfilment of the revelations of the Law and the prophecies of the Jewish dispensation under the Old Covenant, coming to free his people, with reference to Our Lady in the burning bush (containing the divine presence and Law/Word of God without being consumed). We then look more widely at how that Wisdom, shadows of which existed in many religious traditions, reaches complete fruition in Christ, when the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us, enlightening them that sat in darkness and in the shadow of death. We recognise him as our King and yet as Christmass draws nearer, call upon him as Emmanuel, our God-with-us, come to save us. Finally, we give thanks to the all-merciful God for the young girl without whom none of this would have been possible, who, as Ark of the New Covenant, contained the Word of God in humble obedience to God's will, and formed the bridge between the Old and New Covenants.

Marana'tha: come, Lord Jesus!

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