The Great O Antiphons


The Prophet Isaiah
The Great O Antiphons
Picture: The Prophet Isaiah,
By Benjamin West.

Public Domain

You may have noticed the music video at Vespers yesterday was a little different from the norm. That is because yesterday we started the O Antiphons The O Antiphons, also known as The great Os are Magnificat antiphons used at Vespers of the last seven days of Advent in Western Christian traditions. Let me explain – Each of the last 7 days of Advent we look at one of the names of Jesus and one of his attributes written about in the Bible.

The first one yesterday was O Sapientia (O Wisdom) and I managed to get a translation of it in English, it is usually sung in Latin, but better understood here in English. The English Translations which mainly come from the Anglican Liturgy are not always literal translations of the Latin, the meaning and comprehension being the important factor.

They are a very old tradition dating back to the very early church. In the practice of Christianity, for Centuries canonical hours have marked the divisions of the day in terms of periods of fixed prayer at regular intervals, like we have here on Prayer 7’s. The prayer books that they used for this back in medieval times have recorded the 7 O Antiphons and some others in some cases. So this entire website is really a modern version of a very old tradition, just like the O Antiphon’s.

The Advent song/hymn, ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’ is a version of all the antiphons containing the meaning and lyrics of all 7 of them.

Not only is each one a title and attribute of the Messiah but each one is tied to a prophecy given by the prophet Isaiah. Yesterday’s – O Wisdom was based on two verses in Isaiah.

And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsel, and might; the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. His delight will be obedience to the Lord. He will not judge by appearance, false evidence, or hearsay. – Isaiah 11:2-3
This also comes from the LORD of hosts;
he is wonderful in counsel,
and excellent in wisdom. – Isaiah 28:29 (NRSVA)

Today’s Antiphon is O Adonai (O Lord). This is a title for God used a great deal by the Jews. I like using it, it is so close to our English word Adore that I tend to think of it as O Adored Lord, which fits. Lord here indicates Ruler and Judge who Reigns over us. In English the Antiphon is:

O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and gave him the law on Sinai:
Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm

For the Lord is our Judge, our Lawgiver and our King; he will care for us and save us.– Isaiah 33:22
but will defend the poor and the exploited. He will rule against the wicked who op-press them. For he will be clothed with fairness and with truth. - Isaiah 11:4-5