The Antiphons are one of the cool features of Advent prayer as Christians look forward to the coming of the Kingdom of God. There are seven Antiphons. They all begin with “O”, which is then followed by a title or attribute of Christ. There is one antiphon for each day of the week from December 17th. The Christian faith is spelled out in the initials of the Latin titles in the antiphons. Each title is drawn from Isaiah’s prophecy. Here’s the list (thank you wikipedia), together with reference to Isaiah:
December 17th: O Sapientia (O Wisdom) – Isaiah 11:2f; 28:29
December 18th: O Adonai (O Lord) – Isaiah 11:4-5; 33:22
December 19th: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse) – Isaiah 11:1 and 10
December 20th: O Clavis David (O Key of David) – Isaiah 22:22, 9:7 and 42:7
December 21st: O Oriens (O Dayspring) – Isaiah 9:2
December 22nd: O Rex Gentium (O King of the nations) – Isaiah 9:6 ; 2:4
December 23rd: O Emmanuel (O God who is with us) – Isaiah :14
The initials read backwards from the 7th to the 1st antiphon. They spell out ERO CRAS which means “Tomorrow, I will be there.” This faith in tomorrow is borne out of the compassionate response to the realities of the present tense/tensions which are rightly seen as lamentable. Richard Beck, in an Advent meditation, describes Advent as “sort of like a lament. Advent is being the slave in Egypt, sitting with the experience of exile. Advent is about looking for God and hoping for God in a situation where God’s promises are outstanding and yet to be fulfilled.” In a world where everything is “now”, we sometimes lose patience and sight of the fact that now was never intended to be the time, when our churches were to be full, when kingdom was to come in all its fullness. Now is a time of exile, a time of alienation, a time for not being at home in the world, a time of waiting for tomorrow, a time of lament, a time for hope.
Enya captures the spirit of waiting and the hope of tomorrow as she sings the 7th of the antiphons – part of the hymn O come, O come Emmanuel .which paraphrases the seven antiphons.
“According to ancient Christian writers, God waits for Mary’s yes; creation waits; Adam and Eve wait, the dead in the underworld wait; the angels wait; and so do we. With Mary’s yes, hope is enlivened and history is changed. There is an unimaginable future for all people, a future that comes from God. All nations assemble in justice, compassion and gratitude. Salvation is created among us, and the fate of history is altered by a godly presence. This salvation resides in the hearts of those who believe in the gift and who stay awake eagerly to know it is coming. With David we await it, with the nations we long for it, and with Mary we behold it.”