Most of us know the Advent hymn, “O Come. O Come Emmanuel”. The most common English version was written in 1851 by John Mason Neale, the Anglican hymn composer who also gave us “Good King Wenceslas”. It was quickly paired with its well-known tune by music publisher Thomas Helmore in that same year.

But the text of the song is ancient.

It is based on seven antiphons that were used by the church during Advent when praying Vespers, or Evening Prayer, back as far as the 8th century. To this day, these antiphons are still recited during the Evening prayer recital of the Magnificat.

They are also recited in sequence during Advent following Gaudete Sunday, from December 17 through December 23.

Each of the antiphons highlights a biblical title for the Messiah:

  • O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
  • O Adonai (O Lord)
  • O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
  • O Clavis David (O Key of David)
  • O Oriens (O Rising Sun)
  • O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), and
  • O Emmanuel.

Each one is based on a prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah. The antiphons are arranged in such a fashion that if one takes the first letter of each title in order, starting with the last, the Latin phrase “Ero cras” is spelled; this translates as “Soon, I will come.”

Please join in this ancient prayer of the Catholic church; you can start below:

Each day, at the bottom of this page, we’ll have a short prayer service that you can use with your family or friends to pray the O Antiphons as Christmas approaches.

These prayer services were adapted from services developed by the Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University

Check back each day, from December 17 to December 23, to pray the antiphon for that day.

Emmanuel, Come

December 23

Call to Prayer: Psalm 141:2

Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice


Come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that morns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Gospel Reading: Luke 1:46-55

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever

Silent Reflection


Come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that morns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

The Lord’s Prayer

Concluding Prayer

Lord God,
fill our hearts with joy
and our minds with perception of your presence
so that our actions will be pleasing to you.

May your peace, which surpasses all understanding,
guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, through your Holy Spirit.


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