Many are doubtless familiar with the “O Antiphons,” the seven antiphons that are chanted or recited before the Magnificat during Vespers of the Liturgy of the Hours in the Octave before Christmas. (December 17-23). Even those who don’t know them by that name are familiar with them from the song O Come, O Come Emmanuel, each verse of which parallels one of the Antiphons. They have been part of the liturgical tradition of the Catholic Church since the very early Church.
The antiphon for today, December 19, is
O Root of Jesse, you stand as a sign for the people; before you kings shall keep silence and to you all nations shall have recourse. Come, save us, and do not delay.
Today’s antiphon recalls the prophesy in Chapter 11 of Isaiah that “a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” The reference to Jesse is also important because Jesse was the father of King David, and we know from the prophet Micah that the Messiah would be of the house of David.
As we enter these final days before Christmas, we pray with increased intensity, Come Lord Jesus, and do not delay.
P.S. At a recent Advent retreat, I shared what I think is a beautiful rendition of O Come, O Come Emmanuel. Here it is: