The Advent Antiphons in preparation for Christmas, based on Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah under various titles and figures, are found in eleventh century manuscripts. But they must be of much earlier origin; for Amalarius, a French liturgical scholar of the first half of the ninth century, added an eighth to the older seven. This, O Virgo virginum, is not on parallel lines with the others, nor is it found in the Roman Breviary, but it had place in the Sarum.
The O's are not found at all in the Ambrosian Breviary, which has an Advent of six weeks, the last Sunday being a commemoration of the Annunciation.
The Parisian Breviary (1735), of which a marked characteristic is the use of Holy Scripture in antiphons and responds, adds two to the original seven Advent Antiphons, of like nature with them, O Sancte Sanctorum, and O Pastor Israel. Thus provision is made for a complete Novena, from December 15 to 23, before Christmas Eve.
The Roman Breviary does not begin the Antiphons till December 17, but December 16 is the English date (marked in the Prayer Book Kalendar as O Sapientia), either St. Thomas's Day being otherwise provided for, or O Virgo virginum being added as an eighth.
The Antiphons were sung at Vespers before and after the Magnificat.
Dr. Neale supposes that about the twelfth century an unknown author took five of the seven Antiphons and wove them into a hymn, Veni, veni, Emmanuel; but this hymn has not been traced further back than the Psalter of Catholic Canticles published at Cologne in 1722.
The following pages give, with each Antiphon, a devotional paraphrase expanding its prayer, and references to the leading Scripture passage on which the Antiphon and its paraphrase are based.
O Wisdom, Which camest forth out of the mouth of the Most High, and reachest from one end to the other, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.
Wisdom viii. 1, ix. 4, 9, 10; Proverbs viii. 22, sq.; Hebrews i. 1; John i. 3; Ecclesiasticus xxxiv. 3. sq.
O Lord Jesu Christ, who art the very Wisdom of God most high,
by whom He made the world, impressing on His creation
the reflexion of His own power and goodness;
Who dost uphold the world in its being and harmony,
as Thou reachest from one end to the other
mightily and sweetly ordering all things;
Who didst visit God's prophets and servants of old,
giving them ever fuller knowledge of His mind and will;
Thou in the fulness of time didst come forth in the incarnation,
clothing Thyself in our nature and living amidst our conditions,
to teach us the way of prudence--
how to use the complex nature Thou hadst framed,
how to escape the snares and temptations by which we are surrounded,
how to attain the blessedness which Thou hast prepared for us.
Blessed be Thy Name for Thy teaching by word and by example,
for the testimony of Thine Apostles and the record of the Scriptures,
for the continual guidance of Thy Spirit and the witness of Thy Saints.
Come now, we pray Thee, by Thy grace
to Thy Church and people,
and teach us in our day and need
the way of prudence--
how best to promote Thy Father's glory,
and extend Thy kingdom,
and win our perfect life,
as we so pass through things temporal
as not to lose the things eternal.
O Lord and Ruler of the house of Israel, Who appearedst unto Moses in a flame of fire in the bush, and gavest unto him the Law in Sinai: Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.
Acts 7:30, 28; Hebrews 12:18-21, 10:16.
O Lord Jesu Christ, Who as the Angel of the Lord
didst rule and guard God's people of old;
Who didst appear to Moses in the burning bush,
that told of Thy presence hallowing but not consuming,
and of Thy people's preservation through fiery trials;
Who didst give the Law in Sinai
in could and majesty and awe;
Thou didst come to visit mankind oppressed
and didst redeem us therefrom
by the victory of Thy Passion:
Come, we pray Thee, now by Thy grace,
and with Thine outstretched arm deliver us
from the bondage of evil habits
from the crafts and assaults of Satan,
from the tyrrany of the world,
and the disorder into which our nature has fallen
Write in our hearts by Thy Spirit
the law in obedience to which we shall find our true freedom,
Thy law of truth and purity and love.
O RADIX JESSE
O Root of Jesse, Who standest for an ensign of the people, at Whom kings shall shut their mouths, unto Whom the Gentiles shall pray: Come and deliver us, and tarry not.
Isaiah xi. 1, 10, lii, 15; Romans i. 3; Matthew xxviii. 19, 20.
O Lord Jesu Christ, the new shoot from the hewn down stump of Jesse's line,
in whom all the promises should be fulfilled;
the champion of Thy people,
to whom the Gentile nations should turn in submission and obedience:
Thou hast come of the seed of David according to the flesh,
being born in obscurity of a maiden of the royal line;
Thou hast set up Thy holy catholic Church,
commanding Thine apostles to make disciples of all nations
and to train all peoples in obedience to Thy holy commandments:
Come now, we pray Thee, by Thy grace, and tarry not,
hasten the manifestation of Thy kingdom;
grant that Thy Church may continually be increased
by the gathering in of new children to Thee,
and perfected by the increasing devotion of those who have been regenerated.
O CLAVIS DAVID
O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel, Thou that openest and no one shutteth, and shuttest and no one openeth: Come, and loose the prisoner from the prison-house, and him that sitteth in darkness from the shadow of death.
Isaiah xxii. 22, xlii. 7; Revelation iii. 7; Luke i. 32; Mark ii. 10; Matthew xxviii. 18, xvi. 18, 19.
O Lord Jesu Christ, to Whom is given the throne and sceptre of David Thy father over the house of Israel,
that Thou mighest extend his kingdom over all peoples:
Thou didst come in our nature,
as the Son of man forgiving sins,
dispelling sickness and loosing bonds:
to Thee now is committed all authority in heaven and on earth,
and the powers of hell cannot withstand Thy word:
Come, we pray Thee, by Thy grace, and through the instrumentality of Thy Church,
to loosen the prisoner from the chains of sin,
to enlighten with the glad tidings of Thy word all who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
that they may rejoice in the deliverance which Thou hast wrought.
O Orient, Brightness of the Eternal Light, and Sun of Righteousness: Come, and lighten them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Luke i. 78, 79; Malachi iv. 2; Wisdom vii. 26; Hebrews i. 3; John i. 4, 5; Titus iii. 4; Luke vii. 22; Ephesians v. 8-14.
O Lord Jesu Christ, Who art the outshining of Thy Father's glory,
Light streaming forth from Light:
Thou didst come in the incarnation
to our poor darkened world
as the Sun of Righteousness
bringing healing in Thy beams,
dispelling noxious influences,
and gladdening men's hearts with the good news
of their Father's kindness and love for man:
Come, we pray Thee, now by Thy grace,
and through Thy Church let Thy truth and love shine forth to all that are in the darkness
of sin or ignorance or error;
penetrate the hidden recesses of our hearts,
and enlighten the cruel habitations of the earth.
O REX GENTIUM.
O King of the Gentiles, and their Desire, the Corner-stone, Who madest both one: Come and save man, whom Thou hast formed out of the dust of the earth.
Acts xvii. 26; Ephesians ii. 14; Isaiah xlv. 22; Psalm cxiii. 6-8; xlvii. 9.
O Lord Jesu Christ, for Whom all peoples yearn,
even though they know not whom they seek;
Thou hast made of one blood all nations
to dwell on the face of the whole earth;
and Thou dost bind together Jew and Gentile
in the one body of Thy catholic Church:
Come, we pray Thee, and by Thy truth and grace
raise man whom Thou didst make out of the dust of the earth,
from his low condition,
and set him in Thy holy Church with the princes,
even with the princes of Thy people.
O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Desire of all nations, and their Saviour: Come and save us, O Lord our God.
Isaiah vii. 14, viii. 8, xxxii. 1; Psalm lxxii; Genesis xlix. 10; Haggai ii. 7; Luke i. 71, 74, 75.
O Lord Jesu Christ, Who wast foretold as the king
in whom God would manifest his presence,
Who should reign in righteousness,
bringing peace and happiness to all peoples;
Thou art Thyself indeed Emmanuel,
the very Son and Word of God made man:
Come, we pray Thee, by Thy grace, and reign over us,
so saving us from our spiritual enemies
and from the hand of all that hate us,
that we may serve Thee without fear
in holiness and righteousness
all the days of our life.
O SANCTE SANCTORUM
O Holy of Holies, the spotless mirror of the power of God, and the image of His goodness: Come and blot out iniquity, and bring in everlasting righteousness.
Wisdom vii. 26; Daniel ix. 24; Colossians ii. 9; 2 Corinthians iv. 6; John xiv. 9; 1 John ii. 2, iii. 8; Revelation xxi. 5; 2 Peter iii. 13.
O Lord Jesu Christ, promised as the Holy One,
the anointed Priest and Prince,
who should make reconciliation for iniquity
and bring in everlasting righteousness;
Thou art indeed the Most Holy,
the very Shrine of the Godhead;
Thou art the spotless mirror of the majesty of God,
and the image of His goodness;
in Thy face the glory of God shines forth.
Thou, Jesus Christ the Righteous,
art the propitiation for our sins
and for the whole world:
Come, we pray Thee, and put forth the might of Thy grace,
and destroy the works of the devil,
whom Thou didst vanquish on the cross,
and restore all things to their perfection.
According to Thy promise we look for new heavens and a new earth,
wherein dwelleth righteousness.
O PASTOR ISRAEL
O Shepherd of Israel and Ruler of the house of David, whose goings forth have been from of old, from ancient days: Come and feed Thy people in the strength of the Lord, and reign in judgment and righteousness.
Micah v. 2, 4; Ezekiel xxxiv. 16, &c.; Isaiah xxxii, 16, &c; Psalm lxxx. 1.
O Lord Jesu Christ, the true Shepherd whom the LORD promised
to set up over His people Israel,
to tend and rule them in judgment and righteousness;
Thou art the Eternal Son of the Father,
one with Him in majesty and might;
none can pluck out of Thy hand the sheep
for whom Thou didst lay down Thy life.
Come, we pray Thee, and tend the sheep and lambs of Thy flock,
protect them from the attacks of the enemy,
and bring them in safety to Thy everlasting fold.