An 'Antiphon' is a traditional part of liturgical worship. It involves the people's response, usually after a reflection of short. This particular set of antiphons each begin with the expression 'O', which expresses longing and desire. The Great O Antiphons are our response as we count down the last seven days of Advent.
Modern Christians will recognize the themes from the Great O Antiphons. They have been written into our Advent hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel (which is, incidentally, one of my favourite hymns).
Coming forth from the mouth of the Most High
Reaching from one end to the other
Mightily and sweetly ordering all things
Come and teach us the way of prudence
The original Latin:
- O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,
- attingens a fine usque ad finem,
- fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:
- veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae
Yahweh’s Spirit will rest on him:
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Yahweh.
His delight will be in the fear of Yahweh.
He will not judge by the sight of his eyes,
neither decide by the hearing of his ears;
This also comes out from Yahweh of Armies, who is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in wisdom. -Isaiah 28:29
The lyrics from O Come, O Come Emmanuel inspired by this O Antiphon:
- O come, Thou Wisdom, from on high,
- and order all things far and nigh;
- to us the path of knowledge show,
- and teach us in her ways to go.
- Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
- shall come to thee, O Israel!