The seven "O Antiphons" (also called the "Greater
Antiphons" or "Major Antiphons") are prayers that come from the
Breviary's Vespers during the Octave before
Christmas Eve, a time which is called the "Golden
Each Antiphon begins with "O" and addresses Jesus with a unique title
which comes from the prophecies of Isaias and Micheas (Micah), and
whose initials, when read backwards, form an acrostic for the Latin
"Ero Cras" which means "Tomorrow I come." Those titles for Christ are:
glorious titles in more detail:
Testament prophetic verses:
And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: the spirit of wisdom,
and of understanding, the spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, the
spirit of knowledge, and of godliness. And he shall be filled with the
spirit of the fear of the Lord, He shall not judge according to the
sight of the eyes, nor reprove according to the hearing of the ears.
This also is come forth from the Lord God of hosts, to make his counsel
wonderful, and magnify justice.
But he shall judge the poor with justice, and shall reprove with equity
the meek of the earth: and he shall strike the earth with the rod of
his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
And justice shall be the girdle of his loins: and faith the girdle of
For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our
king: he will save us.
And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower
shall rise up out of his root.
In that day the root of Jesse, who standeth for an ensign of the
people, him the Gentiles shall beseech, and his sepulchre shall be
Now shalt thou be laid waste, O daughter of the robber: they have laid
siege against us, with a rod shall they strike the cheek of the judge
For I say that Christ Jesus was minister of the circumcision for the
truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers. But that
the Gentiles are to glorify God for his mercy, as it is written:
Therefore will I confess to thee, O Lord, among the Gentiles, and will
sing to thy name. And again he saith: Rejoice, ye Gentiles, with his
people. And again: Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and magnify him,
all ye people. And again Isaias saith: There shall be a root of Jesse;
and he that shall rise up to rule the Gentiles, in him the Gentiles
shall hope. Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in
believing; that you may abound in hope, and in the power of the Holy
And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne, a book
written within and without, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong
angel, proclaiming with a loud voice: Who is worthy to open the book,
and to loose the seals thereof? And no man was able, neither in heaven,
nor on earth, nor under the earth, to open the book, nor to look on it.
And I wept much, because no man was found worthy to open the book, nor
to see it. And one of the ancients said to me: Weep not; behold the
lion of the tribe of Juda, the root of David, hath prevailed to open
the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.
And I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulder: and he
shall open, and none shall shut: and he shall shut, and none shall open.
For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us, and the government
is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful,
Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince
The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light: to them
that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen.
For behold the day shall come kindled as a furnace: and all the proud,
and all that do wickedly shall be stubble: and the day that cometh
shall set them on fire, saith the Lord of hosts, it shall not leave
them root, nor branch. But unto you that fear my name, the Sun of
justice shall arise, and health in his wings: and you shall go forth,
and shall leap like calves of the herd. And you shall tread down the
wicked when they shall be ashes under the sole of your feet in the day
that I do this, saith the Lord of hosts.
of all Nations, King of the Gentiles
His empire shall be multiplied, and there shall be no end of peace: he
shall sit upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom; to establish
it and strengthen it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth
and for ever: the zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.
And he shall judge the Gentiles, and rebuke many people: and they shall
turn their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into sickles:
nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they be
exercised any more to war.
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold a virgin shall
conceive, and bear a son and his name shall be called Emmanuel.
Below are the O Antiphons in both English and Latin. One is prayed each
evening at Vespers time (around sunset), and
families can make up their
own ceremonies using the Antiphons, Scripture, by singing or listening
to sacred music (especially "O Come, Emmanuel," see below), adding to
their Jesse Trees,
etc. Whatever you do, set the scene, as you should with all Catholic
family devotions: burn incense, lower the lights, light candles, use
sacred music at appropriate times, meaningful symbols, etc.
To pray the O Antiphons as they are prayed in the Divine Office, begin
with the Antiphon, then pray the Magnificat (included below), then
repeat the Antiphon.
It would be wonderful if perhaps one parent can chant, or at least
read, the Antiphons in Latin, with the second parent reading them in
the vernacular afterwards. To hear them chanted (MP3 files), click the
Another option is to add a Christmas
Novena that incorporates the O Antiphons (note that this novena
begins on December 16).
that comest out of the mouth of the Most High, that reachest from one
end to another, and orderest all things mightily and sweetly, come to
teach us the way of prudence!
O Sapientia, quŠ ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad
finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam
and Ruler of the house of Israel, Who didst appear unto Moses in the
burning bush, and gavest him the law in Sinai, come to redeem us with
an outstretched arm!
O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammŠ rubi
apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in
of Jesse, which standest for an ensign of the people, at Whom the kings
shall shut their mouths, Whom the Gentiles shall seek, come to deliver
us, do not tarry.
O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt
reges os suum, quem Gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam
of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel, that openeth and no man
shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth, come to liberate the
prisoner from the prison, and them that sit in darkness, and in the
shadow of death.
O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel; qui aperis, et nemo claudit;
claudis, et nemo aperit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.
Brightness of the everlasting light, Sun of justice, come to give light
to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death!
O Oriens, splendor lucis ŠternŠ, et sol justitiŠ: veni, et illumina
sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.
of the Gentiles, yea, and desire thereof! O Corner-stone, that makest
of two one, come to save man, whom Thou hast made out of the dust of
O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem,
quem de limo formasti.
our King and our Law-giver, Longing of the Gentiles, yea, and salvation
thereof, come to save us, O Lord our God!
O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, exspectatio gentium, et Salvator
earum: veni ad salvandum nos Domine Deus noster.
Soul Doth Magnify the Lord / Magnificat
My soul doth
magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my
Savior. For He hath regarded the humility of His handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For
He that is mighty hath done great things to me, and holy is His Name.
And His Mercy is from generation unto generations upon them that fear
He hath shewed might in His arm, He hath scattered the proud in the
conceit of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat,
and hath exalted the humble. He hath filled the hungry with good
things, and the rich He hath sent empty away.
He hath received Israel, His servant, being mindful of His mercy. As He
spoke to our Fathers, Abraham and His seed forever.
anima mea Dominum, et exultavit spiritus meus in Deo salvatore meo,
quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae.
Ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes, quia fecit mihi
magna, qui potens est, et sanctum Nomen eius, et misericordia eius in
progenies et progenies timentibus eum.
Fecit potentiam in brachio suo, dispersit superbos mente cordi sui;
deposuit potentes de sede et exaltavit humiles; esurientes implevit
bonis et divites dimisit inanes.
Suscepit Israel puerum suum, recordatus misericordiae, sicut locutus
est ad patres nostros, Abraham et semini eius in saecula
The O Antiphons are the source of the lyrics of the
Advent song "Veni, Veni Emmanuel" ("Come, O come Emmanuel"). It would be beautiful
family to sing this
lovely Advent song at the conclusion of the O Antiphons. For the
see the Lyrics and Melodies to
Traditional Catholic Hymns page.
With this link, you can download a .pdf
file of the O Antiphons, the Magnificat, and "Veni, Veni Emmanuel," all
in both English and Latin,
for use in your home.
Dom Prosper Gueranger
on the O Antiphons
The Commencement of
the Great Antiphons
The Church enters to-day on the seven days, which precede the Vigil of
Christmas, and which are known in the Liturgy under the name of the
Greater Ferias. The ordinary of the Advent Office becomes more solemn;
the Antiphons of the Psalms, both for Lauds and the Hours of the day,
are proper, and allude expressly to the great Coming. Every day, at
Vespers, is sung a solemn Antiphon, which consists of a fervent prayer
to the Messias, whom it addresses by one of the titles given him by the
In the Roman Church, there are seven of these Antiphons, one for each
of the Greater Ferias, They are commonly called the O's of Advent,
because they all begin with that interjection. In other Churches,
during the Middle Ages, two more were added to these seven; one to our
Blessed Lady, O Virgo Virginum; and the other to the Angel Gabriel, O
Gabriel; or to St. Thomas the Apostle, whose feast comes during the
Greater Ferias; it began O Thoma Didyme [It is more modern than the O
Gabriel; but dating from the 13th century, it was almost universally
used in its stead.] There were even Churches, where twelve Great
Antiphons were sung; that is, besides the nine we have just mentioned,
there was Rex Pacifice to our Lord, O mundi Domina to our Lady, and O
Hierusalem to the city of the people of God.
The canonical Hour of Vespers has been selected as the most appropriate
time for this solemn supplication to our Saviour, because, as the
Church sings in one of her hymns, it was in the Evening of the world
(vergente mundi vespere) that the Messias came amongst us. These
Antiphons are sung at the Magnificat, to show us that the Saviour, whom
we expect, is to come to us by Mary. They are sung twice; once before
and once after the Canticle, as on Double Feasts, and this to show
their great solemnity. In some Churches it was formerly the practice to
sing them thrice; that is, before the Canticle, before the Gloria
Patri, and after the Sicut erat. Lastly, these admirable Antiphons,
which contain the whole pith of the Advent Liturgy, are accompanied by
a chant replete with melodious gravity, and by ceremonies of great
expressiveness, though, in these latter, there is no uniform practice
followed. Let us enter into the spirit of the Church; let us reflect on
the great Day which is coming; that thus we may take oar share in these
the last and most earnest solicitations of the Church imploring her
Spouse to come, and to which He at length yields.
O Wisdom, that
proceedest from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end
mightily, and disposing all things with strength and sweetness! come
and teach us the way of prudence.
O Uncreated Wisdom! that art so soon to make thyself visible
to thy creatures, truly thou disposest all things. It is by thy
permission, that the Emperor Augustus issues a decree ordering the
enrolment of the whole world. Each citizen of the vast Empire is to
have his name enrolled in the city of his birth. This prince has no
other object in this order, which sets the world in motion, but his own
ambition. Men go to and fro by millions, and an unbroken procession
traverses the immense Roman world; men think they are doing the bidding
of man, and it is God whom they are obeying. This world-wide agitation
has really but one object; it is, to bring to Bethlehem a man and woman
who live at Nazareth in Galilee, in order that this woman, who is
unknown to the world but dear to heaven, and is at the close of the
ninth month since she conceived her child, may give birth to this Child
in Bethlehem, for the Prophet has said of him: "His going forth is from
the beginning, from the days of eternity. And thou, O Bethlehem I art
not the least among the thousand cities of Juda, for out of thee He
shall come." [Mich. v. 2; St Matth. ii. 6.]. O divine Wisdom! how
strong art thou, in thus reaching Thine ends by means which are
infallible, though hidden! and yet, how sweet, offering no constraint
to man's free-will! and withal, how fatherly, in providing for our
necessities! Thou choosest Bethlehem for thy birth-place, because
Bethlehem signifies the House of Bread. In this, thou teachest us that
thou art our Bread, the nourishment and support of our life. With God
as our food, we cannot die. O Wisdom of the Father, Living Bread that
hast descended from heaven, come speedily into us, that thus we may
approach to thee and be enlightened [Ps. xxxiii. 6.] by thy light, and
by that prudence which leads to salvation.
O Jesus, Son of God ! born of a Virgin ! whose Nativity struck the
nations with terror, and compelled kings to reverence thee; grant unto
us the beginning of Wisdom, which is thy fear; that we may thereby
yield fruit, and render thee, by our advancement in the same, the
fruits of peace. O thou that didst come like a torrent to call the
nations, and wast born on earth for the conversion of sinners, show
unto us the gift of thy grace, whereby all fear being removed, we may
ever follow thee by the chaste love of inward charity. Amen.
O Adona´, and
leader of the house of Israel! who appearedst to Moses in the
fire of the flaming bush, and gavest him the law on Sinai;
come and redeem us by thy outstretched arm.
O Sovereign Lord! O Adona´! come and redeem us, not by thy
power, but by thy humility. Heretofore, thou didst show thyself to
Moses thy servant in the midst of a mysterious flame; thou didst give
thy law to thy people amidst thunder and lightning; now, on the
contrary, thou comest not to terrify, but to save us. Thy chaste Mother
having heard the Emperor's edict, which obliges her and Joseph her
Spouse to repair to Bethlehem, she prepares everything needed for thy
divine Birth. She prepares for thee, O Sun of Justice! the humble
swathing-bands, wherewith to cover thy nakedness, and protect thee, the
Creator of the world, from the cold of that mid-night hour of thy
Nativity! Thus it is that thou willest to deliver us from the slavery
of our pride, and show man that thy divine arm is never stronger than
when he thinks it powerless and still. Everything is prepared, then,
dear Jesus! thy swathing-bands are ready for thy infant limbs! Come to
Bethlehem, and redeem us from the hands of our enemies.
O Root of Jesse,
who standest as the standard of the people ; before whom Kings shall
not open their lips; to whom the nations shall pray: come and deliver
us; tarry now no more.
At length, O Son of Jesse! thou art approaching the city of
thy ancestors. The Ark of the Lord has risen, and journeys, with the
God that is in her, to the place of her rest. "How beautiful are thy
steps, O thou daughter of the Prince," [Cant. vii. 1.] now that thou
art bringing to the cities of Juda their salvation! The Angels escort
thee, thy faithful Joseph lavishes his love upon thee, heaven delights
in thee, and our earth thrills with joy to bear thus upon itself its
Creator and its Queen. Go forward, O Mother of God and Mother of Men!
Speed thee, thou propitiatory that holdest within thee the divine Manna
which gives us life! Our hearts are with thee, and count thy steps.
Like thy royal ancestor David, "we will enter not into the dwelling of
our house, nor go up into the bed whereon we lie, nor give sleep to our
eyes, nor rest to our temples, until we have found a place in our
hearts for the Lord whom thou bearest, a tabernacle for this God of
Jacob." [Ps. cxxxi. 3-5.] Come, then, O Root of Jesse! thus hid in this
Ark of purity; thou wilt soon appear before thy people as the standard
round which all that would conquer must rally. Then, their enemies, the
Kings of the world, will be silenced, and the nations will offer thee
their prayers. Hasten thy coming, dear Jesus! come and conquer all our
enemies, and deliver us.
O Key of David,
and Sceptre of the house of Israel! who openest, and no man
shutteth: who shuttest, and no man openeth; come and lead
the captive from prison, sitting in darkness and in the
shadow of death.
O Jesus, Son of David! heir to his throne and his power! thou
art now passing over, in thy way to Bethlehem, the land that once was
the kingdom of thy ancestor, but now is tributary to the Gentiles.
Scarce an inch of this ground which has not witnessed the miracles of
the justice and the mercy of Jehovah, thy Father, to the people of that
old Covenant, which is so soon to end. Before long, when thou hast come
from beneath the virginal cloud which now hides thee, thou wilt pass
along this same road doing good [Acts, x. 36.], healing all manner of
sickness and every infirmity [St Matth. iv. 23.], and yet having not
where to lay thy head? [St. Luke, ix. 58.] Now, at least, thy Mother's
womb affords thee the sweetest rest, and thou receivest from her the
profoundest adoration and the tenderest love. But, dear Jesus, it is
thine own blessed will that thou leave this loved abode. Thou hast, O
Eternal Light, to shine in the midst of this world's darkness, this
prison where the captive, whom thou art come to deliver, sits in the
shadow of death. Open his prison-gates by thy all-powerful key. And who
is this captive, but the human race, the slave of error and vice? Who
is this Captive, but the heart of man, which is thrall to the very
passions it blushes to obey? Oh! come and set at liberty the world thou
hast enriched by thy grace, and the creatures whom thou hast made to be
thine own Brethren.
splendour of eternal light, and Sun of Justice! come and enlighten them
that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.
O Jesus, divine Sun! thou art coming to snatch us from
eternal night: blessed for ever be thy infinite goodness! But thou
puttest our faith to the test, before showing thyself in all thy
brightness. Thou hidest thy rays, until the time decreed by thy
heavenly Father comes, in which all thy beauty will break upon the
world. Thou art traversing Judea; thou art near Jerusalem; the journey
of Mary and Joseph is nigh its term. Crowds of men pass or meet thee on
the road, each one hurrying to his native town, there to be enrolled,
as the Edict commands. Not one of all these suspects that thou, O
divine Orient! art so near him. They see thy Mother Mary, and they see
nothing in her above the rest of women; or if they are impressed by the
majesty and incomparable modesty of this august Queen, it is but a
vague feeling of surprise at there being such dignity in one so poor as
she is; and they soon forget her again. If the Mother is thus an object
of indifference to them, it is not to be expected that they will give
even so much as a thought to her Child, that is not yet born. And yet
this Child is thyself, O Sun of Justice! Oh! increase our Faith, but
increase, too, our Love. If these men loved thee, O Redeemer of
mankind, thou wouldst give them the grace to feel thy presence; their
eyes, indeed, would not yet see thee, but their hearts, at least, would
burn within them, they would long for thy coming, and would hasten it
by their prayers and sighs. Dearest Jesus! who thus traversest the
world thou hast created, and who forcest not the homage of thy
creatures, we wish to keep near thee during the rest of this thy
journey: we kiss the footsteps of Her that carries thee in her womb; we
will not leave thee, until we arrive together with thee at Bethlehem,
that House of Bread, where, at last, our eyes will see thee, O
splendour of eternal light, our Lord and our God!
O King of
nations, and their desired One, and the corner-stone that makest both
one; come and save man whom thou formedst out of slime.
O King of Nations! thou art approaching still nigher to
Bethlehem, where thou art to be born. The journey is almost over, and
thy august Mother, consoled and strengthened by the dear weight she
bears, holds an unceasing converse with thee on the way. She adores thy
divine Majesty; she gives thanks to thy mercy; she rejoices that she
has been chosen for the sublime ministry of being Mother to God. She
longs for that happy moment when her eyes shall look upon thee, and yet
she fears it. For, how will she be able to render thee those services
which are due to thy infinite greatness, she that thinks herself the
last of creatures? How will she dare to raise thee up in her arms, and
press thee to her heart, and feed thee at her breasts? When she
reflects that the hour is now near at hand, in which, being born of
her, thou wilt require all her care and tenderness, her heart sinks
within her; for, what human heart could bear the intense vehemence of
these two affections, - the love of such a Mother for her Babe, and the
love of such a Creature for her God? But thou supportest her, O thou
the Desired of Nations! for thou, too, longest for that happy Birth,
which is to give the earth its Saviour, and to men that Corner-Stone,
which will unite them all into one family. Dearest King! be thou
blessed for all these wonders of thy power and goodness! Come speedily,
we beseech thee, come and save us, for we are dear to thee, as
creatures that have been formed by thy divine hands. Yea, come, for thy
creation has grown degenerate; it is lost; death has taken possession
of it: take it thou again into thy almighty hands, and give it a new
creation; save it; for thou hast not ceased to take pleasure in and
love thine own work
O Emmanuel, our
King and Lawgiver, the Expectation and Saviour of the nations! come and
save us, O Lord our God!
O Emmanuel! King of Peace! thou enterest to-day the city of
thy predilection, the city in which thou hast placed thy Temple, -
Jerusalem. A few years hence, and the same city will give thee thy
Cross and thy Sepulchre: nay, the day will come, on which thou wilt set
up thy Judgment-seat within sight of her walls. But, to-day, thou
enterest the city of David and Solomon unnoticed and unknown. It lies
on thy road to Bethlehem. Thy Blessed Mother and Joseph, her Spouse,
would not lose the opportunity of visiting the Temple, there to offer
to the Lord their prayers and adoration. They enter; and then, for the
first time, is accomplished the prophecy of Aggeus, that great shall be
the glory of this last House more than of the first [Agg. ii. 10.] ;
for this second Temple has now standing within it an Ark of the
Covenant more precious than was that which Moses built; and within this
Ark, which is Mary, there is contained the God, whose presence makes
her the holiest of sanctuaries. The Lawgiver himself is in this blessed
Ark, and not merely, as in that of old, the tablet of stone on which
the Law was graven. The visit paid, our living Ark descends the steps
of the Temple, and sets out once more for Bethlehem, where other
prophecies are to be fulfilled. We adore thee, O Emmanuel! in this thy
journey, and we reverence the fidelity wherewith thou fulfillest all
that the prophets have written of thee, for thou wouldst give to thy
people the certainty of thy being the Messias, by showing them, that
all the marks, whereby he was to be known, are to be found in thee. And
now, the hour is near; all is ready for thy Birth; come, then, and save
us; come, that thou mayest not only be called our Emmanuel, but our
Jesus, that is, He that saves us.