From the Fall/Winter 2017 issue of Reflections magazine
The O Antiphons recall each of the titles by which Christ is known in the appeals of “O Come O Come Emmanuel.” During the seventh and eighth century these titles were composed into antiphons to be said or sung before and after the reciting of the Magnificat during Vespers or Evening Prayer on the seven days preceding Christmas. In Latin, the antiphons echo the Messianic titles given to Christ in the prophecies of Isaiah: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Rising Sun), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), and O Emmanual. See the entire hymn here.
Interestingly, the first letters of each of titles, s a r c o r e, when written in reverse order spell ERO CRAS which in Latin means “Tomorrow I will be there.” This is often seen as Christ’s answer to the pleas for his coming.
The antiphon for each day, below, should be prayed before and after recitation of the Magnificat during Evening Prayer (see Book of Common Prayer beginning on pg 115). This can be done as a congregation, as a family, or individually.
O Sapientia (Isaiah 11:2-3; 28:29): “O Wisdom, you come forth from the mouth of the Most High. You fill the universe and hold all things together in a strong yet gentle manner. O come to teach us the way of truth.”
O Adonai (Isaiah 11:4-5; 33:22): “O Adonai and leader of Israel, you appeared to Moses in a burning bush and you gave him the Law on Sinai. O come and save us with your mighty power.”
O Radix Jesse (Isaiah 11:1, 10): “O stock of Jesse, you stand as a signal for the nations; kings fall silent before you whom the peoples acclaim. O come to deliver us, and do not delay.”
O Clavis David (Isaiah 9:6; 22:22): “O key of David and scepter of Israel, what you open no one else can close again; what you close no one can open. O come to lead the captive from prison; free those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.”
O Oriens (Isaiah 9:1): “O Rising Sun, you are the splendor of eternal light and the sun of justice. O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.”
O Rex Gentium (Isaiah 2:4; 9:5): “O King whom all the peoples desire, you are the cornerstone which makes all one. O come and save man whom you made from clay.”
O Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:14) : “O Emmanuel, you are our king and judge, the One whom the peoples await and their Savior. O come and save us, Lord, our God.”
The O Antiphons are used across denominations in similar but slightly different wordings. The ones above are from
For a brief evening prayer service for each day, go to the Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University,