SCRANTON – It is easy to get caught up in the “external” at Christmas – making and buying gifts, writing Christmas cards and decorating – but if you are looking to be reminded what the season is all about then turn to the “O Antiphons.”

The “O Antiphons” are seven prayers that are recited on the days immediately before Christmas, beginning Dec. 17. The prayers – scriptural texts just a few lines long, begin with “O” and include the desire for Christ to come.

He is addressed by a different title on each of the seven days; O Wisdom, O Lord, O Root of Jesse, O Key of David, O Rising Dawn, O King of Nations, O Emmanuel.

The Church has been singing the “O Antiphons” since at least the eighth century. They are the antiphons that accompany the Magnificat canticle of Evening Prayer from Dec. 17-23. They are a magnificent theology that uses ancient biblical imagery drawn from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming Christ as the fulfillment, not only of Old Testament hopes, but present ones as well.

The Antiphons repeated use of the imperative “Come!” embodies the longing of all for the Divine Messiah.

Recite the following “O Antiphons” in the coming days:


December 17

O Wisdom of our God Most High,
guiding creation with power and love:
come to teach us the path of knowledge!

December 18

O Leader of the House of Israel,
giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai:
come to rescue us with your mighty power!

December 19

O Root of Jesse’s stem,
sign of God’s love for all his people:
come to save us without delay!

December 20

O Key of David, opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom:
come and free the prisoners of darkness!

December 21

O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.

December 22

O King of all nations and keystone of the Church:
come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!

December 23

O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law:
come to save us, Lord our God!