ancient antiphons

Advent: Ancient Antiphons Bring Us Hope


Imagine a world without email and the internet, without cameras and books.  How did the early missionaries teach about the Incarnation?

To teach about Christ to many who were illiterate would be a challenge for us in the 21st century, but for those early missionaries who spread the GOOD NEWS, they used stories, visuals such as icons and taught prayers that could be memorized and repeated like the rosary and litanies. The story of Jesus’ birth and life did come to life in ways that stimulated imaginations and the story got passed on from one generation to another. 

In the Liturgy these days before Christmas, we have a treasure, the O Antiphons, which are  images dating back to the 5th century, which look deep into the gift of the Incarnation, Jesus was born and lived fully as a human person, walking this earth and living among a community of disciples.

We are in the midst of praying the O Antiphons in the daily Liturgy of the Hours, which are prayed from the 17th to the 23rd of December.  This tradition began in monasteries in about the 5th century. Each antiphon contains a biblical image drawn from the Messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming of Christ as the fulfillment of the ancient hopes of salvation.

Today, December 20th, we look to Christ as the KEY to our salvation.  We pray with hope in the coming of Jesus to unlock the doors that imprison us.  We pray to be freed from all those things that bind us.

We pray:  O Key of David, opening the gates of God’s eternal realm, come and free the prisoners of darkness!  Free us from fear, Free all held captive, free us from selfishness and open us to believe that nothing is impossible for God. 

This image of a KEY, provides us with the visual of a door being unlocked by Christ.  What is in the need of unlocking on our lives?  What is “locked off” from our attention or “locked off” from our love? In this prayer, let us be mindful of those who are imprisoned and held captive throughout the world.

[Throughout the 2016 Advent season, we will be bringing you posts from a variety of writers. Our hope is that each of these will be a meaningful way for you to slow down, pray well, and prepare for the coming of our Lord. Today’s blogger is Lucianne Siers, OP, currently serving as Councilor on the Leadership Team of the Dominican Sisters~Grand Rapids. Born in Saginaw, Mich. prior to her election as Councilor, she served as director of the Partnership for Global Justice which is an NGO at the United Nations in New York City. She has served in a number of leadership roles, including six years working in Eastern Europe on behalf of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops based in Washington, D.C.]

o antiphons

Advent: The O Antiphons


Most of us are quite familiar with the hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel. It is likely the most well-known of the Advent hymns. The basis of this hymn are the O Antiphons, which many of us are not familiar with. The O Antiphons, however, are a beautiful and ancient tradition of the Church. They are prayed/sung the last 7 days of Advent as part of Vespers, of evening prayer. Author Jennifer Gregory Miller:

The Antiphons sum up all the longing for our Savior. They recall the Old Testament waiting for the Messiah, but they also reflect our waiting for His Second Coming at the Parousia. Throughout Advent the readings and prayers have been focused on preparation for Christ’s coming in history and in the future. The “Os” are beautiful antiphons which summarize so many prophecies and typologies in the Old Testament while waiting for the Messiah.

The longing of Advent reaches its peak these last few days. We yearn even more for the coming of the Lord because we can see and taste and hear how close He is. Much like we anticipate the doorbell ringing and the rush of guests on Christmas Day, we listen for the Lord.

The Antiphon for today is “O Adonai:”

O Adonai, et dux domus Israel,
qui Moyse in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O Sacred Lord of ancient Israel,
who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush,
who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain:
Come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.

The O Antiphons mingle the Old Testament promise of God to bring forth a Savior, and the New Testament knowledge that Christ entered the world to save us from our sins. Just as Advent remembers the past (the historical birth of Jesus) and looks to the future (the Second Coming of the Lord), the O Antiphons remind us that we are a people rooted in history and yearning for the time to come.

If you are looking for a prayerful way to finish Advent, why not take a few minutes each day to pray and meditate upon the O Antiphons?

[Throughout the 2016 Advent season, we will be bringing you posts from a variety of writers. Our hope is that each of these will be a meaningful way for you to slow down, pray well, and prepare for the coming of our Lord. Today’s blogger is Elise Hilton, who regularly writes the“Living the Good News” blog for Diocesan Trinity Publications. Hilton is a writer, speaker and former educator, who now serves in the Marketing & Communications Department for Diocesan Trinity Publications. She is also an avid reader, wife, mom of five and passionate about music.]

path of knowledge

Advent: The Path of Knowledge


At first glance, today’s readings may leave us wanting something else to reflect on.  I know that was my first thought when I read them.  But then I remembered when I studied the Old Testament and how God works through the most unlikely people sometimes.  God works through the second born, not the first, through those who manipulate and scheme as well as those that walk the straight and narrow.  I began to wonder if that is not some of the wisdom available to us when we reflect on the genealogy of Jesus.  His family, like our own, has it’s characters and yet God found a way, actually chose, to be incarnated in spite of humanity’s imperfection.

As I continued to reflect on whether this was too much of a reach, I noticed the Gospel Acclamation and realized that we are beginning the time of reflection on the O Antiphons, the last seven days of Advent.  Today “O Wisdom of our God Most High, guiding creation with power and love: come to teach us the path of knowledge!”  It struck me that the path of knowledge paired with power and love becomes not just a head knowledge of facts or dogmas but the heart knowledge of deep experiential, relational knowing.  I hear and feel the longing and anticipation in this antiphon, the longing and anticipation of this season of Advent.

As I held both of these ideas, the imperfect family being the place God chose to become a part of and my own desire and waiting for deeper knowing, I felt invited to recognize my own imperfections, wounds and darkness.  At the same time, I heard God say to me, “It’s ok, I can work with that.”

So as we enter this last week of waiting and longing and anticipation, I am reminded that we are all called to carry Christ.  We are all invited into a deeper path of knowledge guided by power and love.  And, if we are feeling a little worried or concerned that we are unworthy, remember Jesus’ family tree and hear God say “It’s ok, I can work with that.”  Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

[Throughout the 2016 Advent season, we will be bringing you posts from a variety of writers. Our hope is that each of these will be a meaningful way for you to slow down, pray well, and prepare for the coming of our Lord. Today’s blogger is . She teaches writing at Grand Valley State University. Today’s blogger is Amy Hoover, Director of Creighton University Retreat Center. The reflection here is based on the readings for Saturday, December 17, 2016.]


9 Advent Traditions For Your Home

20 days. 20 days until Advent begins. It’s time to get ready.

Unlike much of the world, Catholics don’t plunge headlong into Christmas after the Halloween candy has been passed out. Nope, we take it slow. We like to REALLY prepare for Christmas. That means a four week period of getting ourselves ready, spiritually, for the celebration of the Incarnation: God-made-man.

Advent actually has two spiritual purposes: we prepare spiritually for Christmas in remembrance of Christ’s first coming, and we also prepare ourselves for Christ’s second coming, whenever that may be.

Here are some Advent traditions for you, whether you live by yourself, have a bunch of kiddos at home, are grandparents or babysitters – there is something for everyone.

  1. The Advent wreath. You can make this as simple or as elaborate as you’d like. If you have youngsters, you can certainly include them in the making of a simple wreath. You’ll also need four candles: three purple and one rose. You can learn more about this tradition here. (Don’t forget to bless it!)
  2. An Advent calendar. Not sure what it is about this, but kids LOVE opening the little doors each day to reveal a picture, a Scripture passage, a treat. You can find versions of this online, purchase a paper calendar or create a more elaborate one.
  3. Set up the Nativity set, and tell your kids about its history. Many families will “assign” one of the pieces of the Nativity set to each child, and as Advent progresses and the children work on good works, that piece advances until, on Christmas Day, each family member’s piece is present in the manger next to Baby Jesus.
  4. Fully celebrate the holy days in Advent: St. Nicholas’ feast, the feast of St. Lucia, Our Lady of Guadalupe. There are plenty of crafts, food and stories surrounding each of these, so with a little planning, you can enjoy each of the celebrations regardless of the ages of folks in your home.
  5. Can’t wait to get the tree up? Decorate with Jesse Tree ornaments. These ornaments (and the accompanying prayers) tell the story of Christ from the Old Testament – a prophecy and promise of the long-awaited Savior.
  6. Learn and pray the “O Antiphons.” These beautiful prayers date back to the 8th century A.D. You’ll recognize them as part of the hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel.
  7. Want to sing your way to Christmas? You don’t have to tune in to the “all Christmas music, all the time” radio station. Here’s a list of Advent music to enjoy.
  8. Go to confession. This is truly the best way to prepare for the arrival of the Christ Child. Go as a family, and then perhaps enjoy a special treat afterwards.
  9. Make someone else’s day. Bake something special for a neighbor, make a wreath for an elderly friend, volunteer at a food bank or shelter, visit a shut-in.

As always, our prayer life should deepen in this holy season, so whatever you choose to do: pray.

God of Love,
Your son, Jesus, is your greatest gift to us.
He is a sign of your love.
Help us walk in that love during the weeks of Advent,
As we wait and prepare for his coming.
We pray in the name of Jesus, our Savior.