The countdown has begun! In the church year, the final week before Christmas is celebrated with special prayers, called O Antiphons. They are prayed one each day at Mass and during Vespers in the Liturgy of the Hours. They cover the special period of Advent preparation known as the Octave before Christmas, December 17-24.
The importance of the O Antiphons is twofold: each one highlights a title for the Messiah: O Wisdom, O Lord, O Root of Jesse, O Key of David, O Dayspring, O Desire of Nations, and O Emmanuel. Also, each one refers to the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah. The O Antiphons not only bring intensity to our Advent preparation, but also bring it to a joyful conclusion. The familiar Advent hymn, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, is a musical version of the O Antiphons.
Several contemporary liturgical musicians have composed hymns to celebrate the Octave of Christmas and the O Antiphons. My favorites include:
“Maranatha” by G. Westphal (1981)
“Maranatha” by Gerard Chiusano (2000)
“Emmanuel” by Steve Angrisano (2004)
“Come Lord! Maranatha” by Ricky Manalo, CSP (2006)
(Performances of these hymns can be found on YouTube by googling the title and composer.)
Maranatha is a two-word phrase in Aramaic (Maran’atha) that can be translated as “Our Lord is coming” or “Come, Lord.”
In the verses for Week 4 of Advent, Ricky Manalo, CSP highlights the O Antiphons:
Come to us, O Emmanuel!
Come ransom Israel that mourns in lonely exile here.
The Son of God soon will appear!
Come now, O Wisdom, from on high; show us our failures and flaws.
Come to us now, O Lord of might! Come to us; bring us your law!
Come now, O Rod of Jesse’s stem; power is yours alone.
Come now, O Key of David, come. Open your heavenly home!
Come now, O Dayspring from on high; make all the dark clouds decrease.
Come to us, O Desire of nations; be now our Prince of Peace.
A note about the images: I didn’t set out to create a collection, but I now have about 15 Nativities from around the world that I set out during the Advent and Christmastide
Q. How will you spend these final days of Advent?
Q. In addition to writing cards, baking, and perhaps shopping, will you make time for waiting in stillness?