A few years ago my friend Anna introduced me to an online group of Catholic moms who would do peg doll swaps at various points throughout the year. Based on our conversations, I ran my own Jesse Tree ornaments swap and had a great time sharing faith and friendship with some local Catholic moms. Then the next year, when I was feeling brave enough, I joined an online swap focused on the O Antiphons. We each made ornaments illustrating the Antiphons, and it reintroduced me to something I had always loved as a child.
What are the O Antiphons? Originally they were part of vespers, or night prayer, in the liturgy of the hours. These seven verses for the Magnificat portion of the prayer would begin on December 17th and end on 23rd, almost like a Catholic countdown to Christmas. After Vatican 2, these seven verses also became the alleluia verses before the gospels at daily mass starting the 17th of December. As a daily communicant for most of my childhood, this is where I had first met the O Antiphons. Also, the song “O Come O Come Emmanuel” is a musical translation of the 7 Antiphons.
Each of the O Antiphons is a prophecy and title for Jesus. In Latin they are: O Sapentia, O Adonai, O Radix Jesse, O Clavis David, O Oriens, O Rex Gentium, O Emmanuel. In English, a rough translation would be: O Wisdom, O Lord, O Root of Jesse, O Key of David, O Radiant Dawn, O King of All People, O God With Us.
I also have always loved the weird facts that come along with such an old faith tradition, and the O Antiphons have a great one. If you take the first letter of each name in the Antiphons, then write them backwards, they spell out the Latin phrase “ero cras” which means “tomorrow I will come”. Scholars are not sure whether this is just and interesting coincidence or whether it is purposeful design, but either way it is cool. Students tend to like this kind of weird Catholic information.
As part of my work developing resources for my Teachers Pay Teachers store, I developed a printable version of the Antiphons. One version has the dates and the other does not. These would be used in several ways. If you are in school from the 17th to the 23rd, you could use the dated ones, but if not, you may want to use the non-dated one so that you could do all 7 before winter break. I plan on using mine as ornaments on the class Jesse tree, but I think they would make a great paper chain countdown for home or school. I plan on focusing on one Antiphon a day and having students pray it, sing it, then illustrate it.
Also, for all the blog followers, I will have one reflection each day from December 17th to December 23rd, based on the Antiphon for that day. I hope you will join me in praying these beautiful advent prayers- please let me know of any special intentions for you, your family, your friends, or your students.