What are the O Antiphons? Get to Know this Ancient Advent Tradition

Today, December 17, the Church begins praying the O Antiphons. An ancient tradition in the Catholic liturgy, these Antiphons are pious supplications to the Savior of Mankind.

Newsroom  (17/12/2021 10:44 AM, Gaudium Press) The liturgy of the Catholic Church is rich in details and symbols. This richness reveals itself especially in the “strong” times of the liturgical year: Lent, Easter, Advent and Christmas.

It is not by chance that entire books are dedicated to explaining the smallest gestures, words, symbols and customs used during the liturgical celebrations of the Catholic Church throughout the ages.

Preceded by Advent, the Christmas period is also a time of repentance and hope, with plenty of symbolism and meaning.

What are the O Antiphons?

One of the most beautiful traditions of Advent is the recitation of the O Antiphons. These are antiphons that introduce the singing of the Magnificat in the celebration of the Office of Vespers. There are seven antiphons recited in the days leading up to Christmas, from the 17th to the 23rd of December.

Each antiphon begins with the exclamation “O”; this is why they are popularly called the “O Antiphons.” Perhaps the most popular of these antiphons is included in the beautiful Advent hymn “O Come O Come Emmanuel.”

The origin of the antiphons goes back to the antiquity of Christianity, between the 7th and 8th centuries.

A supplication full of hope for the coming of the Saviour

The O Antiphons are a compendium of Christology and, at the same time, a summary of the hope for Salvation of the faithful people. They compose a pious supplication to Our Lord as “Expected of the Nations” and “Saviour of mankind.”

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Sung initially in Gregorian melody, after the Second Vatican Council, the antiphons also gained a place in the Eucharistic liturgy and forego the recitation of the Gospel during the week preceding the Lord’s Christmas.

Today, December 17th, the first antiphon of the O is recited. You can follow the daily at Gaudium Press. We hope you enjoy this most ancient devotion. (FM)

Compiled by Gustavo Kralj


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