The 'O' Antiphons

The ‘O’ Antiphons

Beginning on the 17 December of each Advent season, and for the next seven days, a special antiphon known as an O Antiphon is read before the Magnificat during Evening Prayer. Sometimes called the Greater Antiphons, or the O’s of Advent (because they begin with that exclamation), the O Antiphons differ from the daily antiphons because they herald the coming birth of Christ. Originally written in Latin around the seventh or eighth centuries, these special antiphons express humanity’s desire and longing for God, a longing which has existed throughout the history of God’s people, from the beginning of time through Abraham, Moses and David, and fulfilled on the night when Emmanuel (God with us) was born. Each prayer begins with one of the seven titles attributed to Jesus’ Old Testament title for the Messiah.

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