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Prayers & Devotions

About the "Great O's"

On the evening of December 17 the final phase of preparation for Christmas begins with the first of the great "O Antiphons" of Advent. These prayers are seven jewels of liturgical song, one for each day until Christmas Eve. They seem to sum up all our Advent longing for the Savior.

The "O Antiphons" are intoned with special solemnity in monasteries at Vespers, before and after the Magnificat, Mary's prayer of praise and thanksgiving from the Gospel of Luke (2:42-55), which is sung every evening as the climax of this Hour of the Divine Office.

A vestige of the "Great Os" can be seen in verses of the familiar Advent hymn, "O Come, O Come Emmanuel".

Families interested in the liturgy have discovered these gems of liturgical poetry and use them in their evening prayers. An "O Antiphon House" -- similar to an Advent Calendar -- can be made, with seven windows, each concealing an appropriate symbol for the different "O Antiphons", and an eighth window hiding the Nativity scene. As with an Advent calendar, one window is opened each day.

The sublime meditation of the "Great Os" would be excellent for families with children who have outgrown the Jesse Tree or Advent calendar. In any case, they are beautiful additions to your family prayers in the days just before Christmas. And they form part of the classic Christmas Novena.

The "O Antiphons" appear below in English translation, with scriptural sources and suggested symbols.

The "O Antiphons"

O WISDOM, who came from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: Come, and teach us the way of prudence.
Sirach 24:2; Wisdom 8:1. Symbols: oil lamp, open book.

O LORD AND RULER of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the flame of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: Come, and redeem us with outstretched arm.
Exodus 3:2, 20:1. Symbols: burning bush, stone tablets.

O ROOT OF JESSE, who stands for an ensign of the people, before whom kings shall keep silence and unto whom the Gentiles shall make supplication: Come to deliver us, and tarry not.
Isaiah 11:1-3. Symbol: vine or plant with flower (especially a rose).

O KEY OF DAVID, and Scepter of the House of Israel, who opens and no man shuts, who shuts and no man opens: Come, and bring forth the captive from his prison, he who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Isaiah 22:22. Symbols: key; broken chains.

O DAWN OF THE EAST, brightness of the light eternal, and Sun of Justice: Come, and enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Psalm 19:6-7. Symbol: rising sun.

O KING OF THE GENTILES and their desired One, the Cornerstone that makes both one: Come, and deliver man, whom You formed out of the dust of the earth.
Psalm 2:7-8, Ephesians 2:14-20. Symbols, Crown, scepter.

O EMMANUEL, God with us, our King and Lawgiver, the expected of the nations and their Savior: Come to save us, O Lord our God.
saiah 7:14; 33:22. Symbols: tablets of stone, Chalice and Host.

Permission is granted to reproduce this text, with proper acknowledgement of source

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