On December 17th, the Church's Advent liturgy begins to focus on the Nativity of the Lord. The prayers, readings, and preface at Mass focus on the Nativity of the Lord. The Liturgy of the Hours also begins to focus on the Nativity of the Lord in its readings, antiphons for the Gospel canticles, intercessions, and prayers.
The great "O Antiphons" play a particular role in these days leading up to the Nativity of the Lord and they have since at least the 8th century in the Roman Church. The "O Antiphons" are the antiphon that precedes the Magnificat of Our Lady recited or sung every evening at Vespers. The antiphons are a magnificent theology using biblical imagery from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament. These messianic hopes are not only the fulfillment of hopes long ago, but of present hopes as well. Each antiphon begins with a title of Christ, and is followed by the imperative petition that He come (veni) to us and act on our behalf:
December 17: O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
December 18: O Adonai (O Lord)
December 19: O Radix Iesse (O Root of Jesse)
December 20: O Clavis David (O Key of David)
December 21: O Oriens (O Daystar) [After this date the days begin to get longer]
December 22: O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations)
December 23: O Emmanuel (O God-with-us)
When taken together from the last title to the first, the first letters of each title form the beautiful Latin acrostic:
This acrostic forms the Lord's response to the Church's ardent petition that He come:
Ero Cras (I will be there tomorrow)!
As we enter more deeply into the mystery of God's love for us, let us stir up in our hearts the petitions of these antiphons. Ask Jesus to come and teach us knowledge and truth, rescue us by His mighty power, save us from sin, free us from darkness , and shine His light upon us without delay. He wants to encounter you in a very personal way in these last days of Advent - open your aching heart to Him and beg Him to come.
Sources: USCCB and Fr. Kurt Belsole, OSB
Fr. William Saunders
Fish Eaters website (listen to these antiphons chanted in Latin - worth it!)
Word Among Us (pray them as a family)
YouTube - another chant listening option
I am a Catholic priest writing about Catholic things.
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