Antiphons are pillars of prayer during Advent

December 6, 2011

HOUSTON — During the last days of Advent, it is part of the Church’s tradition to add the “O Antiphons” — the seven prayers that form the basis for the familiar Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” — to prayer. 

According to Dr. Richard Lopez, Associate Director of the Archdiocesan Office of Worship, the “O Antiphons” have been a liturgical tradition since the early Church. The exact origins of the “O Antiphons” are not well known, although the Roman philosopher Boethius (480-524) made a reference to them in his writings, suggesting they were known at that time. By the eighth century they were in use in the liturgical celebrations in Rome, particularly in the monastic traditions, as part of the Liturgy of the Hours (Vespers) at the end of the season of Advent. 

“Each Antiphon is a descriptive title for the Messiah, as referenced in the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah,” said Lopez. “The sequence of ‘Antiphons’ progresses in a historical sequence from before creation to the gates of Bethlehem. In Latin, the initials of the titles in reverse order for the words ‘Ero cras’ which means: ‘Tomorrow I will Come.’”

In addition, he said, “the Antiphons have been described as a unique collage of Old Testament [names for] Christ with a messianic theme, stressing the hope of the Savior’s coming.” †

Saturday, Dec. 17: “O wisdom of our God Most High, guiding creation with power and love, come to teach us the path of knowledge!”

Sunday, Dec. 18: “O Antiphon”: “O Leader of the House of Israel, giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai: come to rescue us with your mighty power!”

Monday, Dec. 19: “O Root of Jesse’s stem, sign of God’s love for all his people: come to save us without delay!”

Tuesday, Dec. 20: “O Key of David, opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom: come and free the prisoners of darkness!”

Wednesday, Dec. 21:
 “O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.”

Thursday, Dec. 22: “O King of all nations and keystone of the Church: come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!”

Friday, Dec. 23: “O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law: come to save us, Lord our God!”

Christmas Masses will be held at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, 1111 St. Joseph Parkway, on the following dates and times:

Christmas Eve Mass, Saturday-Dec. 24:
4 p.m. English Carols
5 p.m. English Christmas Eve Mass: Archbishop Emeritus Joseph A. Fiorenza
7 p.m. Spanish Carols
7:30 p.m. Spanish Mass
11 p.m.-12 midnight English Carols 
Midnight Mass in English: Daniel Cardinal DiNardo

Christmas Day Mass, Sunday-Dec. 25:
9 a.m. English Mass
10:30 a.m. Vietnamese Carols
11 a.m. Vietnamese Mass

To view a complete listing of the times and dates of Masses happening in your area, visit the Archdiocesan parish locator at 

Thursday, Dec. 8
Holy day of obligation, Feast of Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Friday, Dec. 9
Attend the annual Christmas Banquet for Priests and Religious, hosted by the Bay Area Serra Club. Held at Mary Queen Church, 606 Cedarwood Dr. in Friendswood, the social begins at 6:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 7. The cost is $25 per person and includes a wine bar. Call Jerry Schrader at 281-482-0334 for reservations.

Saturday, Dec. 10
Let Christmas music move your spirit at the Houston Chamber Choir’s “Christmas at the Villa” concert, held at the Chapel of Villa de Matel, 6510 Lawndale Ave. in Houston. The concert — Dec. 10 and 11 at 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. — includes fresh carols and seasonal favorites. Visit for more details.

Monday, Dec. 12
The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of all the Americas, is Dec. 12. Catholics worldwide commemorate Mary’s appearance to Juan Diego; her visibility to a poor Indian peasant signifies God’s care for and identification with the poor. Take time to contact your elected officials to ask them to support legislation that respects the life and dignity of all people, especially the disenfranchised. Visit the Archdiocesan Parish Locator at to find out how your local church may be honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Saturday, Dec. 24
The Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord begins with Masses on Dec. 24. Pray with the readings — which are different for the midnight, dawn and day Christmas Masses — and celebrate the great mystery of Emmanuel, God with us. 

Sunday, Dec. 25
Merry Christmas! Celebrate the first coming of the Son of God, the Prince of Peace. And don’t forget to keep celebrating after Dec. 25. The upcoming weeks include the Feasts of St. Stephen, the Holy Innocents, the Holy Family, the Solemnity of Mary, Epiphany and the Baptism of the Lord. Christmas is not just a day, but a season for rejoicing. †