Introducing my Advent-ure Calendar 2012 – the O Antiphons

For the last two years I have created a special blog for Advent called Bryony’s Advent-ure Calendar with a new blog post/’window’ for every day from Dec 1st-25th. You can view the calendar from 2010 and 2011 here:

O come o come emmanuelThis year, because I’m at theological college and so am quite preoccupied with essays and reading I have decided to do a shorter version. This year (after being inspired by my friend Rolf’s blog last year) I have decided to focus on the 7 ‘O Antiphons’ for advent from 17th – 23rd December. I’ll be posting these reflections on this blog here so do watch this space.


The O Antiphons

This is how the Church of England’s Common Worship introduces these antiphons:

These antiphons, or refrains, all beginning ‘O …’, were sung before and after the Magnificat at Vespers, according to the Roman use, on the seven days preceding Christmas Eve (17–23 December). They are addressed to God, calling for him to come as teacher and deliverer, with a tapestry of scriptural titles and pictures that describe his saving work in Christ. In the medieval rite of Salisbury Cathedral that was widely followed in England before the Reformation, the antiphons began on 16 December and there was an additional antiphon (‘O Virgin of virgins’) on 23 December; this is reflected in the Calendar of The Book of Common Prayer, where 16 December is designated O Sapientia (O Wisdom). The Common Worship Calendar has adopted the more widely used form. It is not known when and by whom the antiphons were composed, but they were already in use by the eighth century.

So I will be writing a reflection on each antiphon from 17th – 23rd December. The 7 antiphons are:

  • December 17: O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
  • December 18: O Adonai (O Lord)
  • December 19: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
  • December 20: O Clavis David (O Key of David)
  • December 21: O Oriens (O Dayspring)
  • December 22: O Rex Gentium (O King of the nations)
  • December 23: O Emmanuel (O God is with us)

If you put these in reverse order in the Latin they spell ERO CRAS which means ‘tomorrow I will come’ – an allusion to the second coming of Jesus Christ which is what Advent is really all about. The popular Advent hymn, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel is based on the O Antiphons with a verse for each one.

What is Advent for?

As you prepare to celebrate the season of Advent, you might enjoy this short video that reminds us of the purpose of this time for Christians:


  1. […] The Antiphon set for today focuses on wisdom. The antiphon is based on a couple of passages from the Apocrypha. We get a lot of ideas about wisdom, unsurprisingly, in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament. One of my favourite bible passages on wisdom is from the book of Proverbs and it’s a useful passage to look at at Christmas as I think it adds something to the magnificent prologue to John’s gospel which is read every year at this time: […]


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