Praying the O Antiphons

Somehow it is a week until Christmas! As we enter these final days of Advent, you might consider making the O Antiphons, a part of your daily prayer.

The O Antiphons, which form part of evening prayer during the Octave before Christmas, are familiar to almost everyone in at least one form.  Most people, even if they don’t pray the antiphons in their traditional form, recognizes them from their appearance in a modified form in the popular Advent hymn, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

Each of the seven antiphons highlights a different title for the Messiah, each refers to a prophesy of Isaiah and each contains a different petition. (You can find the O Antiphons in their traditional form, with accompanying scriptural texts, here.)

In different Advent retreat settings, I’ve encouraged retreatants to write their own O Antiphons. We live in a different time and place than when the “O” antiphons were composed. In addition, each of us has our own needs and our own issues with God. Writing our own “O” antiphons gives expression to: Who is God for me? How do I name God? And what are my deepest needs? How do I need God to come to me.

I engaged in this prayer exercise myself during an Advent Week of Directed Prayer many years ago.  Both the writing of the antiphons and the reflection surrounding the writing was a special time between me and God.  It was powerful because it involved articulating my answers to questions such as those I just posed

I encourage you engage in the same exercise.  As the birth of the Savior draws near, what is the yearning in you this week?  What are the places in your life that cry out for redemption?  Name these.  These are the source of our personal O Antiphons.


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