Starting on Sunday, December 17, Catholics recite a weeklong series of evening prayer verses referred to as the O Antiphons. An antiphon is not exactly a prayer; it’s a verse that introduces or emphasizes what follows. In Advent, the seven O Antiphons are said before and after the Magnifcat, a part of the evening prayers of the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours).
Children will likely recognize these as the various titles for Jesus that we sing in “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Each O Antiphon begins by declaring a different title of Jesus. These names indicate his relationship to the People of Israel—starting with “O Wisdom of Our God Most High” and concluding with “O Emmanuel, Our King and Giver of Law.” If you take the first letter of each ancient Messianic title in the O Antiphons (in reverse order)—Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, and Sapientia—it spells ERO CRAS, Latin for “Tomorrow, I will come.” Each O Antiphon includes the word come, which indicates the intense longing of the Old Testament prophets for the Messiah. We continue to express this longing for Jesus today.
Read the O Antiphons, included in both Venture and Visions, as you light three candles—including the rose candle for Gaudete Sunday—on your Advent wreath this week. Then invite the children to share the O Antiphons with their families. You may suggest that family members take turns reading an antiphon each day to begin their evening prayer.
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