WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Oh Antiphons, Kiwi style


Barbara Henley RNDM
4 December 2012

altI have always loved the ‘O Antiphons’… well, ever since I entered the novitiate and prayed them during Vespers on the last days of Advent. They gave a sense of anticipation and expectation to our prayer. We were about to welcome the Saviour, Emmanuel, God-With-Us.

Like any home, our cloisters were brightly decorated with tinsel and lights but we also had these ornately painted banners of the O Antiphons. Each one was an artistic portrayal of a historical and scriptural descriptive phrase for the Messiah. They were:

  • December 17: O Sapientia (Wisdom)
  • December 18: O Adonai (Lord)
  • December 19: O Radix Jesse (Root of Jesse)
  • December 20: O Clavis David (Key of David)
  • December 21: O Oriens (Dayspring)
  • December 22: O Rex Gentium (King of the nations)
  • December 23: O Emmanuel (God with us)

They are poetic and prophetic names for the Messiah and give an insight into how eagerly anticipated and yearned for this Saviour was. Each day the prayer grew in intensity until we intoned with full gusto the final antiphon Come O Emmanuel!.

Today the O Antiphons are perhaps most familiar to us in the hymn Come, O Come Emmanuel. Each verse of the hymn parallels one of the antiphons.

In addition to their use in the Liturgy of the Hours and the gospel acclamation, they have been popularly incorporated into church devotions and family prayer.

They are beautiful prayers and while thinking about them the idea of contemporary antiphons came to mind.

It is so easy to become caught up in the busy-ness and excitement of Christmas, but even in all of that we can still have a focus on what this season means to us today.

So in this spirit I invite you to pray with me my ‘Kiwi Oh Antiphons’ and remember that Jesus is why we, as Christians, get excited at Christmas time.

Oh Antiphons, Kiwi style
Oh shopping mall…
bustling place of frenetic energy and laughter, anxiety and frustration…
Lead us through our shopping wisely and with minimum fuss.

Oh sunshine, surf and barbecues…
long hot summer of lovely lazy evenings…
Give us rest and peace to enjoy glorious sunsets, sun-skipped waves and good company.

Oh Pohutakawa Tree…
you mighty, majestic icon of strength and solidity.
Reflect your blaze of crimson over our lovely land and give us peace and shelter in your shade.

Oh Christmas parties…
silly hats and dangling earrings, tomato sauce and sizzling sausages, cold beer and tingling wine…

Bring on the fun and games, the joy and smiles, connections and reflections of family togetherness.

Oh Wrapping paper and decorations…
bright lights to welcome the newborn…
Shine out across our land and let everyone know that this place welcomes the greatest gift, Emmanuel, God with us.

Oh Christmas cards, uniting friends young and old, near and far…
Inspire us and bond us to those special people for whom we make the annual effort to welcome into our busy lives.

Oh Jesus…
The incarnate son of a God who is with us at all times and in all seasons…
Surround us with your love at this wonderful time and may our land of Aotearoa New Zealand ring out with songs of joy.