The ‘O’ Antiphons

The ‘O’ Antiphons

by Sr. Sheila Campbell MMM   Ireland   17.12.2021

Crib in Somerville 2021Let’s be honest here. Before I entered MMM I had never heard of the ‘O’ antiphons.  I am sure I am not alone!  They are short prayers said each evening during the Divine Office on the seven days between December 17th and December 23rd.  They are a kind of preparation for Christmas but a celebration in their own right.  Each prayer begins with a title “O Wisdom”, “O Adonai”, O Key of David” and so on.

We had a wonderful theology teacher, Sr. Maura Ramsbottom, MMM, who introduced us with her usual enthusiasm to these prayers.  But she did it in a creative way.  Our novitiate group was divided up into small teams and each group was given one antiphon.  “Go and show me this prayer in a creative way”, she said.  God forgive me, but I cannot remember what we came up with.  Some groups did drawings, one wrote a poem, one group even acted a scene, as far as I remember.  It was a way of picking up these old prayers from the 12th Century and making them our own.  And it worked!  Each year I love the beginning of Advent, but even more I love the beginning of the ‘O’ antiphons.  The excitement of Christmas is stirring in the belly at this stage.  It is a time of great thankfulness, for creation, for the incarnation, for family and friends.

At the end of each prayer there is a short phrase which begins with the word ‘come’.  Come to teach us, come and save us, come and free us.  As we draw near to Christmas, I would like the word ‘come’ to be part of my vocabulary, inviting in, inviting onwards on the journey of life.  ‘Come’ is a welcoming word and one we all need to hear and experience, far beyond the Christmas season.