Tag Archives: O Antiphons

O Emmanuel

O EMMANUEL [God with us], our King and Lawgiver, the Expected of nations and their Savior: COME,and save us, O Lord our God!

The following commentary adapted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Fr Pius Parsch (The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 1959):

In the previous six antiphons, our cry was directed to the Messiah as He manifested Himself to the Chosen People, to the Gentiles, and in nature; now He is addressed in person and asked to remain with us as Emmanuel. Reading this final antiphon gives the feeling that a climax has indeed come. The very term Emmanuel [God with us] reveals the kindly, human heart of Jesus–He wants to be one of us, a Child of Man, with all our human weaknesses and suffering; He wants to experience how hard it is to be human. He wants to remain with us to the end of time; He wants to dwell within us, to make us sharers of His nature.

Besides the main title, the Savior is invoked by four other names.

(1) King and Lawgiver are common enough, and the combination is found in Isaiah 32:22: “The Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our Lawgiver; the Lord is our King. He will save us.” This is a joyous expression of faith and confidence. Christ functions in all these roles for our benefit. Whatever a lawgiver like Moses, a judge like Samuel, a king like David, accomplished for the good and glory of their people, that and far more the expected Savior will accomplish for us.

(2) The Messiah is next hailed as the expectation of the Gentiles and their Savior. Remember Jacob’s dying words: “The scepter will not pass from Judah, nor a ruler from his thigh, till He comes that is to be sent. He is the expectation of all the nations.” (Genesis 49:10)

The antiphon petitions: COME AND SAVE US! King, let me be Your vassal; Lawgiver, let me be Your servant; Expected Savior, let my longings be fulfilled in You. Our song closes with the words, “O Lord our God!” It is a phrase summarizing all the names and titles used in the O-Antiphons. May our hearts be always so disposed as to use the invocations sincerely and confidently.

O King of the Nations

O KING OF THE NATIONS and the Desired of all, You are the cornerstone binding the two [i.e., Jew and Gentile] into one: COME, and save poor man, whom You fashioned out of clay.

The following commentary adapted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Fr Pius Parsch (The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 1959):

Previous antiphons in this series stemmed from a Jewish background. The Messiah would be the fulfillment of Israel’s expectations, and Christians are the “wild vine” grafted onto the original vine of the Chosen People. In several of the antiphons, there are allusions to the conversion of the Gentiles, but this sixth antiphon is the first to address the Savior as “King of the nations and the Desired of ALL.” The reference to the “cornerstone” is to Isaiah 28:16, “Behold, I will lay a stone as the foundation of Zion, a tested stone, a cornerstone, precious and firmly set; if one believes, he will not be shaken.” On occasion, Christ called Himself the cornerstone (c.f. Matthew 21:42), indicating that He is the foundation, the spiritual support of the Church.

In our antiphon, however, the clause that follows indicates a function in reference to the Gentiles: the Messiah will be a cornerstone uniting both Jew and Gentile. This thought is from Ephesians 2:14, where Christ is called the peace-maker between Jew and Gentile, breaking down the wall of enmity between them.

The petition calls for the salvation of all humanity, which has its creation from the clay of the earth as a common bond. The antiphon should call all of us to work for the spread of the Gospel to all who have not yet heard it.

O Dayspring

O DAYSPRING, Radiance of the Light eternal and Sun of Justice: COME,and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

The following commentary adapted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Fr Pius Parsch (The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 1959):

Not sacred history but nature inspires today’s “O.” The sun as a symbol of Christ is one of the finest figures in Sacred Scripture and in the liturgy. And never is the metaphor more beautifully worded or more expressive of an entire season’s liturgy than in our present antiphon.

Three metaphors link the Redeemer to the sun:

(1) He is the Rising Dawn;

(2) He is the Radiance of the Light Eternal;

(3) He is the Sun of Justice.

The expression “rising dawn” (aka “dayspring”) occurs in Zechariah 3:8 and 6:12. Perhaps more familiar to Christians from its daily use in the Benedictus at Morning Prayer is the expression “Oriens ex alto,” the “dayspring from on high.” In spirit, the aged priest Zechariah beheld Christ rising as the sun “to enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.” The verse is incorporated in today’s “O.” Christ is the Rising Sun that disperses spiritual darkness and death. From the sun in the sky comes light and life; from Christ the divine Sun likewise comes light and life. Remember how Jesus called Himself the light and the life of the world.

The title “Radiance of the Light eternal” is found in Hebrews 1:3. It is a reference to the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. “Light eternal” is a reference to God the Father; “Radiance of the Light eternal” describes the eternal and consubstantial origin of the Son from the Father. In the Creed, we say, “Lumen de Lumine,” light from light. Thus the antiphon’s first phrase brought out Christ’s relation to the world and to men, while this second one tells of the inner divine relationship of Christ to the Father.

“Sun of Justice!” These words depict the Messiah in Malachi 4:2. Christ is the Sun, emitting the rays of justice (i.e., holiness and grace). What the sun does for the realm of nature, that Christ as the Sun of Grace does for the kingdom of God.

In the closing petition, we ask Christ to enlighten us by His birth. Even in us, the faithful, there is still much darkness, much of death’s shadow. Open your soul and let the divine light shine in!

O Key of David

O KEY OF DAVID and Scepter of the house of Israel: You open, and no man closes; You close, and no man opens. COME,and deliver him from the chains of prison who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death!

The following commentary adapted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Fr Pius Parsch (The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 1959):

Substantially, this passage is from Revelation 3:7, where Christ speaks of Himself as the “Key of David who opens and no one shuts; who shuts and no one opens.” But there is also a passage in Isaiah (22:22) which corresponds almost word-for-word with our antiphon. There the text is directed to the faithful civil ruler whom God supports: “I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulder. He will open and no one will shut; he will shut, and no one will open.” The symbol of handing over the keys denotes the conferral of supreme authority. Evidently St. John borrowed the passage from Isaiah and applied it to Christ, a precedent followed by the liturgy.

Being the son of David, Christ is heir and possessor of David’s keys (i.e., his kingdom). After His resurrection, He told His apostles, “All power is given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Lastly, the petition of this antiphon is somewhat more extended than on previous days. Christ holds the keys to the prison where humanity is enchained. Redemption is described graphically in this antiphon—captive mankind sits in darkness and in the black shadows of death. May Christ the Redeemer, we plead, come and unlock this prison.

O Root of Jesse

O Root of Jesse, You stand as for an ensign of mankind; before You kings shall keep silence, and to You all nations shall have recourse. Come, save us, and do not delay!

The following commentary adapted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Fr Pius Parsch (The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 1959):

The bulk of this text is taken from various sections of the book of the prophet Isaiah (cf 11:1; 11:10; 52:15). In spirit, the prophet say how Judah and the kingdom of David would be destroyed. But there would remain a holy root. From the stump of Jesse (the name of the father of King David) springs forth a twig (root), a twig that becomes a banner unto all the nations. In its presence, kings will become reverently silent, and the nations will bow down and worship. It is clear that the prophet is speaking of the Messiah. David’s royal line was dethroned with the exile, and thereafter remained shrouded in oblivion—Jesse’s stump. But with Christ, a new branch buds out of the old root; the throne of David is once more occupied. “And the angel said to Mary: The Lord God will give unto Him the throne of David His Father; and He will reign in the house of Jacob forever.” Christ is of the root of Jesse, both as a descendant of David and as occupant of the royal throne.

The antiphon sums up two aspects of the Messiah and His work. His origins may be humble and unimpressive; but His Kingdom will embrace the whole earth, drawing all nations into it, and placing high and low alike under its rule.

Now the petition: “Come, save us and do not delay!” Millions do not yet recognize the Savior’s saving insignia of the Cross; leaders, dictators, presidents, mayors do not stand in silent awe before Christ’s presence; indeed, it is till true what the psalmist sang: “the Gentiles rage, and kings rise up while princes unite against God and against His Christ.” Even in my own soul—-is Christ perfect Sovereign of every quarter of my being? “Come, Lord, save us and please do not delay!”

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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