Thursday, December 15, 2011

It's All About the "O"

Here comes a place in the Church year where a little piece of the Liturgy of the Hours joins up with popular devotion.

I refer to the famous "O Antiphons" the antiphon for the Magnificat at Evening Prayer  every day from December 17 through the 23rd.  Shorter versions of these, although in a different order, also appear in the mass at the verse before the Gospel during these days. You will also recognize more poetic versions of the O Antiphons as the verses of the hymn, "O Come,O Come Emmanuel."

The O Antiphons give us the names of the Messiah, drawn from the prophecies of the Old Testament. The O Antiphons were part of the liturgy since the early centuries of Christianity.This excellent wikipedia article tells more about them.

Many Catholic families like to integrate the O Antiphons into family prayer time during the countdown to Christmas. They might say them at the beginning or end of whatever is usually done for family prayer (e.g. rosary, bible reading, bedtime prayers with children).  In our home, the appropriate O Antiphon is read just after grace before dinner.  Some years we have also concluded dinner by singing the appropriate verse from O Come O Come Emmanuel, but that has fallen away as our most enthusiastic singers have grown up and left home.

Other families take the O Antiphons to the arts and crafts level, constructing an "O Antiphon house", which is something along the lines of an advent calendar, with doors that open each day on a different antiphon, providing both a focus of prayer and a cute way for little ones to count down the last week beforeChristmas. 
If you don't already have a family custom related to the O Antiphons--that's why I'm posting this two days before they start. You now have time to figure out how to display these jewels of the advent liturgy to your loved ones.