The O Antiphons Begin
I love the tradition of the O Antiphons. It's also easy for me to remember them each year because they start on my half birthday.
Fr. William Saunders explains what they are :
The “O Antiphons” refer to the seven antiphons that are recited (or chanted) preceding the Magnificat during Vespers of the Liturgy of the Hours. They cover the special period of Advent preparation known as the Octave before Christmas, Dec. 17-23, with Dec. 24 being Christmas Eve and Vespers for that evening being for the Christmas Vigil.
... The importance of “O Antiphons” is twofold: Each one highlights a title for the Messiah: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), 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 the Nations), and O Emmanuel. Also, each one refers to the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah.
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 Nights."
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:
SapientiaThese glorious titles in more detail:
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), 1 click the speaker icon; to see the musical notation, click the musical note.
My Soul Doth Magnify the Lord / Magnificat
The O Antiphons are the source of the lyrics of the Advent song "Veni, veni Emmanuel" ("Come, O come Emmanuel") which you can hear by clicking here. It would be beautiful for the family to sing this lovely Advent song at the conclusion of the O Antipons. For the lyrics, see the Lyrics and Melodies to Traditional Catholic Hymns page.
To download the O Antiphons and Magnificat, in both English and Latin, for use in your home, click here for a 2-page Microsoft Word document that has all you need.
1 The MP3 files come from Father Jim Tucker ("Don Jim"), of the blog "Dappled Things" (will open in new browser window).