The Roman Catholic Lectionary Website
compiled by Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.

"O Antiphons" for the Week before Christmas

Introduction: Most familiar today from the Advent hymn, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," the seven traditional "O Antiphons" are actually more than a thousand years old. They have long been used at the very end of Advent (Dec. 17-23) in the liturgical prayer of the Church, as Antiphons for the "Magnificat" sung or recited during Vespers (the Evening Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours). Since the Second Vatican Council, they have also been adapted (slightly reworded and rearranged) for the "Alleluia Verse" of the Mass (the short scriptural text or paraphrase that immediately precedes the Gospel reading). Each Antiphon invokes the coming of the Messiah, beginning with a biblical title and closing with a specific petition.

The following chart provides a comparative overview of the Latin versions and English translations of the texts used in the Liturgy of the Hours and the Lectionary for Mass, as well as the lyrics from the Advent hymn and some references to a few scriptural passages upon which these texts were based. In the traditional arrangement, when viewed from Christmas Eve backward, the first letters of the Latin texts (Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia) spell out the phrase ero cras ("I come tomorrow").

Antiphon for the Magnificat during
Evening Prayer, Liturgy of the Hours

Alleluia Verse,
Lectionary for Mass
(#201)

Latin & English Lyrics,
Traditional Hymn

Biblical
Texts

Dec. 17:
O Sapientia
, quae ex ore Altissimi prodisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem fortiter,
suaviter disponensque omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Wisdom, O holy Word of God,
you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care:
Come and show your people the way to salvation.

Dec. 17:
Sapientia Altissimi, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Wisdom of our God Most High,
guiding creation with power and love:
come to teach us the path of knowledge!

Veni, O Sapientia, quae hic disponis omnia,
Veni, viam prudentiae ut doceas et gloriae.

(2) 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.

Wisdom 8:1

Isaiah 11:2-3; 28:29

Proverbs 8:1-36

John 1:1-5

Dec. 18:
O Adonai
, et dux domus Israel,
qui Moyse in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O Sacred Lord of ancient Israel,
who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush,
who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain:
Come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.

Dec. 18:
Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in bracchio extento.

O Leader of the House of Israel,
giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai:
come to rescue us with your mighty power!

Veni, Veni, Adonai, qui populo in Sinai
legem dedisti vertice in maiestate gloriae.

(3) O Come, O Come, Thou Lord of might,
who to thy tribes on Sinai's height
in ancient times didst give the law,
in cloud, and majesty, and awe.

Exodus 3:2

Isaiah 33:22; 63:11-12

Micah 6:4

Acts 7:30-31

Dec. 19:
O Radix Jesse
, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

O Flower of Jesse’s stem,
you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples;
kings stand silent in your presence;
the nations bow down in worship before you.
Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.

Dec. 19:
Radix Iesse, stans in signum populorum:
veni ad liberandum nos, iam noli tardare.

O Root of Jesse’s stem,
sign of God's love for all his people:
come to save us without delay!

Veni, O Iesse virgula, ex hostis tuos ungula,
de spectu tuos tartari educ et antro barathri.

(4) O Come, Thou Rod of Jesse's stem,
from ev'ry foe deliver them
that trust Thy mighty power to save,
and give them vict'ry o'er the grave.

Isaiah 11:1, 10

Isaiah 52:15

Romans 15:12

Dec. 20:
O Clavis David
, et sceptrum domus Israel,
qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperuit:
veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel,
controlling at your will the gate of heaven:
Come, break down the prison walls of death
for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death;
and lead your captive people into freedom.

Dec. 20:
Clavis David, qui aperis portas aeterni Regni:
veni et educ vinctum de domo carceris sedentem in tenebris.

O Key of David,
opening the gates of God's eternal Kingdom:
come and free the prisoners of darkness!

Veni, Clavis Davidica, regna reclude caelica,
fac iter tutum superum, et claude vias inferum.

(5) O Come, Thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heav'nly home,
make safe the way that leads on high,
that we no more have cause to sigh.

Revelation 3:7

Isaiah 22:22

Jeremiah 13:13; 51:19

Matthew 4:16; 16:19

Luke 1:79

Dec. 21:
O Oriens
, splendor lucis aeternae,
et sol justitiae:
veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris,
et umbra mortis.

O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death.

Dec. 24, Morning Mass:
Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae et sol iustitiae:
veni et illumina sedentes in tenebris et umbra mortis.

O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
come and shine on those who dwell in darkness
and in the shadow of death!

Veni, Veni O Oriens, solare nos adveniens,
noctis depelle nebulas, dirasque mortis tenebras.

(6) O Come, Thou Dayspring from on high,
and cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night
and death's dark shadow put to flight.

Isaiah 9:1; 58:8; 60:18-20

Malachi 4:2

Luke 1:78-79

John 8:12

Revelation 22:16

Dec. 22:
O Rex Gentium
, et desideratus earum,
lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum:
veni, et salva hominem,
quem de limo formasti.

O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart;
O Keystone of the mighty arch of man:
Come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.

Dec. 22 & 23:
Rex gentium et lapis angularis Ecclesiae:
veni et salva hominem quem de limo formasti.

O King of all nations and keystone of the Church:
come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!

Veni, Veni, Rex Gentium, Veni, Redemptor omnium,
ut salvas tuos famulos peccati sibi conscios.

(7) O Come, Desire of the nations, bind
in one the hearts of all mankind;
bid every strife and quarrel cease
and fill the world with heaven's peace.

Isaiah 2:4; 11:10

Psalm 47:8; Jeremiah 10:7

Daniel 7:14; Haggai 2:8

Romans 15:12

Ephesians 2:14, 20

Dec. 23:
O Emmanuel
, Rex et legifer noster,
expectratio gentium, et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos,
Domines, Deus noster.

O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver,
desire of the nations, Savior of all people:
Come and set us free, Lord our God.

Dec. 21:
Emmanuel, rex et legifer noster:
veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus noster.

O Emmanuel, our King, and Giver of Law:
come to save us, Lord our God!

Veni, Veni, Emmanuel captivum solve Israel,
qui gemit in exsilio, privatus Dei Filio.

(1) O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Isaiah 7:14

Matthew 1:23

1 Timothy 4:9

.

.

Refrain:
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!
Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel nascetur pro te Israel!

Psalm 14:7

Phil 4:4

Note that the first verse of the popular hymn is actually the last of the traditional "O Antiphons" (for Dec. 23!), while the other verses of the hymn (in the order printed in most hymnals) correspond to the Antiphons for Dec. 17 to Dec. 22.

Note also that the refrain of the hymn has awkward phrasing in English:

Related Pages:


The Roman Catholic Lectionary Website:

Main Lectionary Page 1998/2002 USA Edition 1992 Canadian Edition
Links to Other Websites 1970 USA Edition Roman Missal (pre-Vatican II)

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