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Beginning December 17, the antiphons for the Canticle of Mary at Evening Prayer form a series of invocations, each beginning with “O”—hence they are called the “Great O Antiphons.” Each antiphon addresses Christ by one of the titles associated with him from the words of the prophets—Sapientia (Wisdom), Adonai (Lord), Radix (root), and so on. Medieval poets loved intricacies of language, and the first letters of each of these titles forms a reverse acrostic, spelling the Latin words ero cras: “I will be there tomorrow.” We of course know the great “O” antiphons very well—the favorite carol “O come, O come Emmanuel” is an adaptation of them by Victorian poet and translator John M. Neale.

Liturgist Pierre Jounel writes, “These antiphons, which the Roman Church was singing as long ago as the time of Charlemagne, not only synthesize the messianism of the Old Testament in its purest form. Using ancient biblical images, they also present the divine titles of the incarnate Word, while their Veni (‘Come!’) is freighted with all the present hopes the Church. In them the Advent liturgy reaches its culmination.”
This novena of prayer is based on the great “O” antiphons.

O sapientia

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.

Read today’s scriptures

Intentions for today Let us ask God for the wisdom we need to discern the coming of the Lord, not only in the great moments, but in the everyday occurrences of our lives. Let us pray for all those who do not believe in Christ, that they may find him by walking in the “path of knowledge.”

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Art by Brother Placid, OSB, from The Church's Year of Grace, Liturgical Press, 1957

Back to the Novena


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804 Ninth Avenue
Seattle, Washington  98104
Phone 206.622.3559  Fax 206.622.5303