O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

The verses of the 9th century Latin hymn "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," are derived from the "O ANTIPHONS". These seven great "O's" mark the last week of Advent. One is sung each day until Christmas Eve. They sum up the longing of Advent as they depict the desperate plight of humanity in need of a Savior, and address Christ with seven grand titles, pleading with him to come save his people. The verse we know as the first was actually the last, climactic verse in the series.

In Latin the letters which begin the titles form an acrostic S-A-R-C-O-R-E which when reversed spells ERO CRAS meaning "I shall be there tomorrow". In other words, this is the answer (spoken the day before Christmas!) that echoes back from the One to whom the people call.

Here are the Seven "O" antiphons:

O WISDOM, (Sapientia) who came from 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.

O LORD (Adonai) AND RULER of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the flame of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: come, and redeem us with outstretched arm.

O ROOT (Radix) OF JESSE, who stands for an ensign of the people, before whom kings shall keep silence and unto whom the Gentiles shall make supplication: come to deliver us, and do not tarry .

O KEY (Clavis) OF DAVID, and Sceptre of the House of Israel, who opens and no man shuts; who shuts and no man opens: come, and bring forth the captive from his prison, he who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death.

O DAWN/LIGHT FROM THE EAST (Oriens), brightness of the light eternal, and Sun of Justice: come, and enlighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

O KING (Rex) OF THE GENTILES and their desired One, the Cornerstone that makes both one: come, and deliver man, whom You formed out of the dust of the earth.

O EMMANUEL, (Emmanuel) God with us, our King and Lawgiver, the expected of the nations and their Savior: come to save us, O Lord our God.


More on the O antiphons:
Scriptures, links
tune and translation
Come Emmanuel : A Study of the Advent Antiphons by William J. Marshall, William Leonard Marshall, William Marshal. Morehouse Publishing Company, 1994.
Chapters include "O Wisdom," "O Adonai," "O Root of Jese," "O Key of David," "O Day-Spring," "O King of Nations," and "O Emmanuel."

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©1998 Bruce L. Johnson