O…

Oh my goodness.  OMG.  Oh, Lord!  Oh, come on! 

We use the phrases “Oh!” and “O!” to begin statements we feel strongly about.  But there is a long history behind this popular exclamation.

O Antiphons are specific titles to praise God, used the last seven days of Advent in various liturgical Christian traditions.  The definition of an antiphon is comes from two Greek words, opposite and voice.  Antiphons are a kind of call-and-response used in worship.

No one quite knows where these O Antiphon phrases originated, but historical records show them in use from 480 AD. Each antiphon is a name of Christ, one of his attributes mentioned in Scripture.

Gregorian chants for the night office of Christmas. Monastery of Solesmes, 1895

They are:

December 17: O Sapientia (O Wisdom)

December 18: O Adonai (O Lord)

December 19: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)

December 20: O Clavis David (O Key of David)

December 21: O Oriens (O Dayspring)

December 22: O Rex Gentium (O King of the nations)

December 23: O Emmanuel (O God is with Us)

You may recognize these titles for Jesus in the popular Advent Hymn, O Come, O Come Emanuel, which is a paraphrase of this ancient liturgy.

Now, after all that background, I’d like you look carefully at our first reading for the First Sunday in Advent (November 27, 2011).  How many “O” phrases can you find in Isaiah 64:1-9?  What is Isaiah longing for in this passage?

O Savior of the nations, come!  Amen.

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