O Antiphons

Written by Barb Spies, OFS, Director of Mission Services and Pastoral Care

The “O” antiphons have been sung by the Roman Church since at least the 8th century. These antiphons are part of Evening Prayer. They are sung from December 17 to 23 each year. The "O" antiphons are a beautiful theology that uses biblical images from the Old Testament, drawing on the messianic hope of the Old Testament, to declare the coming of Christ as the fulfillment of the Old Testament hopes, as well as the present ones. Their repetition of the imperative phrase “Come!” expresses the desire of all for the Messiah. You might recognize them from the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

As we enter these last days of Advent, take a moment to look at and even repeat these antiphons. Each one reminds us of the promises sprinkled throughout the Old Testament about Jesus’ coming. They emphasize for us the deep longing of the people of God for the Messiah. What would it have been like to be these people waiting for God’s Incarnation? Do we have the same deep longing in our own hearts? St. Francis, 800 years ago in Greccio, Italy, took that desire and turned it into a celebration of the birth of Christ with a nativity scene, something that hadn’t been done before. He felt the same longing as the authors of the O Antiphons. May your celebrations of God With Us be filled with joy. 

Blessed Angela: “It seems that the Lord Jesus invites Himself to be near us. I am filled with wonder at His goodness toward such unworthy servants!”

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