Yesterday, December 17th, marked the first day in which the Great O Antiphons of Advent are sung. Do I hear you ask, oh Reader, “what are the Great O Antiphon”? I am glad you do, for I had never heard of this beautiful liturgical custom until this year.
The Great O Antiphons are a series of seven special antiphons which are sung before the Magnificat at Vespers each day from December 17th through December 23rd, begging our Lord to make haste and come. Each of the antiphons begins by addressing the Messiah by one of His titles. The first begins, O Sapientia – that is, O Wisdom - and the others follow suit: O Adonai – O Lord; O Radix Jesse – O Root of Jesse; O Clavis David – O Key of David; O Oriens – O Rising Sun; O Rex Gentium – O King of Nations; and finally, O Emmanuel – O, God with us
The Antiphons are of great antiquity. The sixth century philosopher, Boethius, makes mention of them, and by the 8th century, they were a tradition part of the Roman Liturgy. The Antiphons are singular to Christmas. No other feast in the Church – not even Easter – has anything similar preceding the feast. Given their venerable age, and their unique standing, it seems a pity that they are not better known. Therefore, I am posting a clip of the antiphon for today, O Adonai:
For an brief history and explanation of the O Antiphons, this site is a good place to start.