The O Antiphons are rich with meaning and make a truly wonderful Catholic tradition! I’m going to put the roots of them in a nutshell for you (as much as I can).
Why they are called the “O Antiphons”
Each night for the octave (8 days) before Christmas, we ask Christ to come, and call him by a different name. Each of these names starts with “O”, such as “O Come O Come Emmanuel”. An antiphon is a liturgical composition, and they are traditionally sung. Therefore, they are called the O Antiphons.
When do the O Antiphons start?
The O Antiphons start on Dec 17 and run through Dec 24. This time is known as the “second part of Advent” or “The Golden Nights.” The O Antiphons are taken from the Liturgy of the Hours (specifically, evening prayers, or “vespers”). So because they are traditionally said in the evening, there is not one for Dec 24 because the evening on Christmas Eve is already the vigil of Christmas, so we are no longer waiting.
What do the O Antiphons mean?
The O Antiphons get across 2 messages: each one highlights a different title for the Messiah (listed below), and each one refers to the prophecy of the Messiah from Isaiah.
- Dec 17: O Sapientia (Wisdom)
- Dec 18: O Adonai (Lord and Ruler)
- Dec 19: O Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse)
- Dec 20: O Clavis David (Key of David)
- Dec 21: O Oriens (Dawn of the East)
- Dec 22: O Rex Gentium (King of the Gentiles)
- Dec 23: O Emmanuel (God With Us)
If you take the first letter of each name and write them backwards, you get “ERO CRAS.” This means “Tomorrow, I will Come” in Latin. So that’s why you see that written in a lot of places with the O Antiphons.
To find a list of O Antiphon crafts, activities, coloring pages, printables, and prayers, check out my O Antiphon resource page.
Also, you can find all of my Advent and Christmas resources for Catholic families here.Pin It