Advent’s Poetic Climax


If I were to conduct a poll that asked you  to name Advent hymns, the hymn most mentioned would be O Come, O Come Emmanuel. In some years, I am pretty tired of it by the end of Advent because it seems to be so many parish’s “go-to- hymn.”  The hymn has  certain pride of place in that it summarizes well the meaning of Advent. It is the great Advent poem put to music. It is the sung version of  the O Antiphons.

The O Antiphons

The O Antiphons are the Magnificat antiphons in the Church’s Evening Prayer from December 17 to 24. These 7 acclamations have been part of the church’s prayer since the time of Charlemagne (742 A.D.-814 A.D). More recently, they have begun to be used as the Acclamation verse before the Gospel at Mass on these days.

An Old Testament Treasure

The antiphons use biblical images from the Old Testament as divine titles for the Messiah.  O Sapienta, O Adonai, O Radix Jesse, O Clavis David, O Oriens, O Rex Gentium, O Emmanuel.  Word lovers will also appreciate that Medieval poets took the first letters of these titles for Christ to form a reverse acrostic (a word for which each letter stands for another word)that in Latin spells “ero cras”: Tomorrow, I will come .

Whether as you pray Evening Prayer or listen for the Gospel Acclamation at Mass, you are invited to pray with the Church:

Come, Wisdom of our God…

Come, Leader of Ancient Israel…

Come, Flower of Jesse’s Stem

Come, Key of David

Come, Radiant Dawn

Come, King of Nations

Come, Emmanuel

One Reply to “Advent’s Poetic Climax”

Comments are closed.