Since the 7th century, the final days of Advent before Christmas Eve have been marked by a set of seven prayers called The “O” Antiphons or the “Great O’s.” Each prayer opens by addressing God with “O” and then a biblical name. Each ends with a longing and hopeful call for Him to come. Possibly around the 12th century these sung prayers were adapted into lyrical form, which were translated first into English by John Mason Neale in 1851 and became the popular Advent hymn, “O Come O Come Emmanuel.”
Originally sung in Latin, English Translations of the O Antiphons are as follows:
O Sapientia (O wisdom) – December 17
O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from one end to the other, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.
O Adonai (O Lord) – December 18
O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and gave him the law on Sinai: Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.
O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse) – December 19
O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples; before you kings will shut their mouths, to you the nations will make their prayer: Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.
O Clavis David (O Key of David) – December 20
O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel; you open and no one can shut; you shut and no one can open: Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house, those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
O Oriens (O Rising Sun) – December 21
O Morning Star, splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness: Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations) – December 22
O King of the nations, and their desire, the cornerstone making both one: Come and save the human race, which you fashioned from clay.
O Emmanuel (O God Who is With Us) – December 23
O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver, the hope of the nations and their Saviour: Come and save us, O Lord our God.