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O Antiphons

Artwork by The Benedictine Sisters of Turvey Abbey

O Wisdom O Adonai O Root of Jesse O Key of David O Rising Sun O King of Nations O Emmanuel O Wonderful Exchange

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The O Antiphons are a highlight of the Church's Advent Liturgy: from December 17th - 23rd they frame the Magnificat at Vespers.

Rich in symbolism and meaning they take us right from the beginning of creation, through the centuries of the world's waiting for the promised Messiah, calling upon him who was hidden in signs and symbols, and revealed when the fullness of time had come, leading us to the Mystery of the Incarnation and beyond, to the Paschal Mystery, the coming of the Holy Spirit and the Parousia (Christ's second coming).

The exact origin of the Latin texts is unknown. They may date from the sixth century. There is evidence to suggest that the texts were in liturgical use in Rome in the eighth century. Both the original Latin texts and an English translation are given here.

Arriving at the 7th Antiphon on December 23rd, we may discover that the letters of the Latin invocations, read from the last up to the first, form a wonderful acrostic (ERO CRAS), like God's answer to our prayer:

Dec. 17: Sapienta (O Wisdom)                           
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Dec. 18: Adonai (O Adonai [Lord])                     
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Dec. 19: Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)             
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Dec. 20: Clavis David (O Key of David)              
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Dec. 21: Oriens (O Rising Sun)                          
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Dec. 22: Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations)   
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Dec. 23: Emmanuel (O Emmanuel)                    
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Christmas: O Wonderful Exchange (Antiphon from the Greek Liturgy "O Wonderful Exchange! The Creator of the human race took to himself a human body and was born of a virgin, and becoming man he granted us divinity.")  BAN21 & RB21 Roller Banner

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