As we light our final purple candle this week, we enter the last week of Advent. At evening prayer in the latter days of Advent, from very early times the Church has prepared with special prayers or antiphons for the countdown to Christmas. These are known as the O antiphons because each one begins with a proclamation of a title of Jesus and each one reflects on some prophecy of the prophet Isaiah. They are paraphrased memorably in the popular advent hymn O come o come Emmanuel. There will be a lot of rushing around and stress for many of us in this final week. Perhaps we might try include these short antiphons in our prayers each day, uniting us with the prayer of the whole Church in our own time and down the centuries, as we await the coming of our Messiah.
Sunday: O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.
Monday: O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of Heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.
Tuesday: O Radiant Dawn, splendour of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
Wednesday: O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of humanity, come and save the creatures you fashioned from clay.
Thursday: O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Saviour of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.