Advent, the Antiphons

Time is pressing in. We’re getting ever closer to Christmas, and so many conversations yesterday were about lists. What is on your Christmas list? What do you want? What do you need? What would you never spend your own money on, but would totally make you smile? What will make you happy?

With all this talk of lists murmuring through humanity, I shouldn’t be surprised to open my missal to find another type of list. Today starts the Greater Advent Antiphons, or the Great O’s. For the next seven days a different antiphon will be said, creating a sincere list of needs lifted to Heaven.

“O Wisdom, which camest out of the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end and ordering all things mightily and sweetly: come and teach us the way of prudence.”

Sirach 24:1-5; Wisdom 8:1

It is so fitting that the first thing on the Christmas List of the Church is Wisdom.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is prudence.”

Proverbs 9:10

These Antiphons are sung each evening at Vespers, expanding that hymn (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel) that has been vibrating in my bones into a more fervent prayer. The Church never does anything without purpose, and so I have to ask why they are sung at this particular time.

“The canonical Hour of Vespers has been selected as the most appropriate time for this solemn supplication to our Saviour, because, as the Church sings in one of her hymns, it was in the evening of the world (vergente mundi vespere) that the Messias came amongst us. These antiphons are sung at the Magnificat, to show us that the Saviour whom we expect is to come to us by Mary. They are sung twice, once before and once after the canticle, as on double feasts, and this to show their great solemnity.”

Dom Prosper Guéranger, The Liturgical Year

In the evening of the world He came.

Are we not even now in such an evening?

The world is so very dark and cold. How much we need the Light. How much we need Wisdom, Order, and Prudence.

O my soul, what are you doing at sunset this evening, while the Church is beginning Vespers and lifting our most necessary Christmas List to God? I already hear you protesting about all your other lists, so much to do, you know you’ll forget. It’s not so hard to set a reminder on your phone, is it? Truly.

What if you stepped aside at just that moment, in the evening of the world, and breathed a solemn prayer…O Wisdom

One thought on “Advent, the Antiphons

  1. This is a beautiful reflection on the importance of seeking wisdom as we approach Christmas. I love the idea of adding this to our Christmas lists and thinking of what we can ask for in prayer. What other antiphons will be sung in the coming days?


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