by Paul Campbell SJ USA 21.12.2023
Lent comes before Easter. Clear and simple. Advent comes before Christmas. Equally clear and simple but, for some reason, it’s a much more complicated part of the liturgical cycle for me. I find it tough to get into the spirit of Advent.
That having been said, apart from singing “O come, O come Emmanuel…” my favorite part of Advent is the seven “O Antiphons.” They are a deeply meaningful and contemplative part of the Advent season. These ancient antiphons, traditionally recited or sung on the seven days leading up to Christmas Eve, hold a profound spiritual significance and offer us a rich source of reflection.
Each of the “O Antiphons” addresses the coming of the Messiah and uses Hebrew Testament prophecies and imagery to symbolize various aspects of Jesus Christ. They serve as a bridge between the Hebrew [Old] and Christian [New] Testaments, reminding us of the continuity of God’s plan throughout history. They evoke a sense of anticipation and longing, inviting us to meditate on the different titles attributed to the coming Savior, such as “O Wisdom,” “O Key of David,” “O Root of Jesse,” and others.
They remind us of the diversity of the Messiah’s roles and how they encompass most aspects of our lives. They encourage us to reflect on the wisdom and knowledge that Jesus brings us, the power and authority he holds, and his ability to heal and restore, among other attributes. These reflections deepen our understanding of Christ’s multifaceted nature and the significance of the incarnation.
The “O Antiphons” also convey a sense of unity and universality. They highlight our longing for the Messiah’s arrival, emphasizing that Jesus came not just for a particular group or time but for all of humanity. The antiphons call us to recognize the hope and promise of redemption that Christ brings to the world.
In our fast-paced lives, taking time to reflect on the “O Antiphons” helps us regain reverence and wonder during Advent. They remind us to slow down, contemplate, and prepare our hearts for the true meaning of Christmas, beyond any materialistic aspects.
As we anticipate the celebration of the birth of Christ, these antiphons invite us to delve deeper into the profound and enduring significance of Emmanuel. They connect us to the deep roots of our faith and prepare us to celebrate the birth of our Savior with a sense of wonder and reverence.