Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Sandro Magister

12/18/2008 (6 years ago)

Chiesa (

They're sung one per day, at the Magnificat during vespers. They are very ancient, and extraordinarily rich in references to the prophecies of the Messiah.


By Sandro Magister

Chiesa (

12/18/2008 (6 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

ROMA (Chiesa) - From today until the day before Christmas Eve, at the Magnificat during vespers in the Roman rite, seven antiphons are sung, one per day, all of them beginning with an invocation to Jesus, although he is never called by name.

The antiphons are very old, going back to the time of Pope Gregory the Great, around the year 600. They are in Latin, and are inspired by the texts of the Old Testament proclaiming the Messiah.

At the beginning of each antiphon, in order, Jesus is invoked as Wisdom, Lord, Root, Key, Star, King, Emmanuel. In Latin: Sapientia, Adonai, Radix, Clavis, Oriens, Rex, Emmanuel.

Read starting from the last, the Latin initials of these words form an acrostic: "Ero cras," meaning: "I will be [there] tomorrow." It is the proclamation of the Lord who comes. The last antiphon, which completes the acrostic, is sung on December 23, and the following day, with first vespers, the feast of the Nativity begins.

These antiphons have been plucked from obscurity by, unexpectedly, "La Civiltŕ Cattolica," the journal of the Rome Jesuits that is printed after review by the Vatican secretariat of state.

Also unusual is the place of prestige given to the article illustrating the seven antiphons, written by Fr. Maurice Gilbert, director of the Jerusalem branch of the Pontifical Biblical Institute. The article opens the pre-Christmas issue of the magazine, in the spot usually reserved for the editorial.

In the article, Fr. Gilbert illustrates the antiphons one by one. He demonstrates their extremely rich references to the texts of the Old Testament. And he points out one special feature: the last three antiphons include some expressions that can be explained only in the light of the New Testament.

The antiphon "O Oriens" for December 21 includes a clear reference to the Canticle of Zechariah in Chapter 1 of the Gospel of Luke, the "Benedictus": "The daybreak from on high will visit us to shine on those who sit in darkness and death's shadow."

The antiphon "O Rex" for December 22 includes a reference to a passage from the hymn to Jesus in Chapter 2 of the letter of Paul to the Ephesians: "That he might create in himself one new person in place of the two [Jews and pagans]."

The antiphon "O Emmanuel" for December 23, finally, concludes with the invocation "Dominus Deus noster": an exclusively Christian invocation, because only the followers of Jesus recognize the Emmanuel as the Lord their God.

Here, then, are the complete texts of the seven antiphons, in Latin and in translation, with highlighting of the initials that form the acrostic "Ero cras," and in parentheses the main references to the Old and New Testament:

I - December 17

O SAPIENTIA, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Wisdom, who come from the mouth of the Most High (Sirach 24:5),you extend to the ends of the earth, and order all things with power and sweetness (Wisdom 8:1):
come and teach us the way of wisdom (Proverbs 9:6).

II - December 18

O ADONAI, dux domus Israel,
qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et in Sina legem dedisti:veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extenso.

O Lord (Exodus 6:2, Vulgate), leader of the house of Israel,who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush (Exodus 3:2) and on Mount Sinai gave him the law (Exodus 20):come and free us with your powerful arm (Exodus 15:12-13).

III - December 19

O RADIX Iesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem gentes deprecabuntur:veni ad liberandum nos, iam noli tardare.

O Root of Jesse, who stand as a sign for the peoples (Isaiah 11:10),the kings of the earth are silent before you (Isaiah 52:15) and the nations invoke you:
come to free us, do not delay (Habakkuk 2:3).

IV - December 20

O CLAVIS David et sceptrum domus Israel,
qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit:
veni et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris et umbra mortis.

O Key of David (Isaiah 22:23), scepter of the house of Israel (Genesis 49:10),who open and no one may shut; who shut and no one may open: come, free from prison captive man, who lies in darkness and the shadow of death (Psalm 107: 10, 14).

V - December 21

O ORIENS, splendor lucis aeternae et sol iustitiae:
veni et illumina sedentem in tenebris et umbra mortis.

O Star who rises (Zechariah 3:8; Jeremiah 23:5), splendor of the eternal light (Wisdom 7:26) and sun of justice (Malachi 3:20):come and enlighten those who lie in darkness and the shadow of death (Isaiah 9:1; Luke 1:79).

VI - December 22

O REX gentium et desideratus earum,
lapis angularis qui facis utraque unum:
veni et salva hominem quel de limo formasti.

O King of the nations (Jeremiah 10:7) and their desire (Haggai 2:7),cornerstone (Isaiah 28:16), who reunite Jews and pagans into one (Ephesians 2:14):come and save the man whom you formed from the earth (Genesis 2:7).

VII - December 23

O EMMANUEL, rex et legifer noster,
expectatio gentium et salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos, Dominus Deus noster.

O Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:14), our king and lawgiver (Isaiah 33:22),hope and salvation of the peoples (Genesis 49:10; John 4:42):come to save us, O Lord our God (Isaiah 37:20).


Chiesa is a wonderful source on all things Catholic in Europe. It is skillfully edited by Sandro Magister. SANDRO MAGISTER was born on the feast of the Guardian Angels in 1943, in the town of Busto Arsizio in the archdiocese of Milan. The following day he was baptized into the Catholic Church. His wife’s name is Anna, and he has two daughters, Sara and Marta. He lives in Rome.


More Living Faith

Come together this Thanksgiving with a beautiful prayer Watch

Image of Each year thousands of families celebrate Thanksgiving, but make the food their priority. This year, make God and all He has given us your priority.


Each year, millions of people across the United States rush to grocery stores and prepare to visit their families in celebration of Thanksgiving. Visiting loved ones and enjoying a specially prepared meal are both wonderful parts of celebrating, but don't forget to ... continue reading

Pope Francis: Jesus is weeping over a WORLD AT WAR

Image of Pope Francis mourns a world at war.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has made it clear, Jesus is weeping over a world at war. It has become obvious that this is a time of extreme danger for all people around the globe. No population is safe from terror. The threats aren't just from terrorist organizations like ISIS and Al ... continue reading

Oxford to begin study of Catholic relics. Here are 5 macabre relics people venerate from around the world Watch

Image of The skull of St. Thomas Aquinas.


The veneration of relics in the Catholic Church has been one of the most debated practices in the faith. While such veneration is actually common in the human experience -even Communists did it with the body of Lenin, the veneration of relics in the Church is the ... continue reading

Nine bishops, one abbot, dine and dialogue with peace activists Watch

Image of

By Tony Magliano

During the recent U.S. Catholic bishops' fall assembly in Baltimore, several bishops and one abbot, decided to skip dinner at the downtown Marriott Waterfront hotel, and walked several blocks to an inner city parish to share a simple meal with about 30 peace ... continue reading

Woman turns her cancer over to Jesus Christ - survives, thrives Watch

Image of Heather King shares her struggles in her new memoir,

By Mary Rezac, CNA/EWTN News

Heather King never cared much for doctors. Los Angeles, CA (CNA) - It's an attitude she partly inherited from her mother, "who classified ginger ale as a medicine, considered Novocain a snobbish extravagance" and somehow managed to avoid a visit to the doctor's office ... continue reading

Top 5 ways to find joy Watch

Image of Find happiness in spite of the darkness.


It is easy to fall prey to depression and sadness with everything that has been going on in the world these days. The trick to maintaining a positive attitude and living in the joy God has for us is as easy as following five simple steps. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading

Want to lose the War on Christmas? Surrender Advent Watch

Image of What millions of Christians do a day after expressing thanks for what they already have.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Want to lose the War on Christmas? Surrender Advent. We Christians have gone out of our minds, arguing about Starbucks cups and greeters who (correctly) say "Happy Holidays" in place of "Merry Christmas." In all the bustle of the season, we have forgotten that Advent ... continue reading

Cardinal Sarah releases new book, 'God or Nothing,' on civilization's fall from grace Watch

Image of Without God, the cardinal said,

By Elise Harris, CNA/EWTN News

At the presentation of his new book, Cardinal Robert Sarah said that Western society is rapidly forgetting God, and expressed his desire to help people rediscover him through both prayer and witness. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - "I would like to help people ... continue reading

Holy Door in St. Peter's basilica to open for first time in 15 years for Holy Year of Mercy Watch

Image of The rite of the opening of the Holy Door is intended to symbolically illustrate the idea that the Church's faithful are offered an

By Elise Harris, CNA/EWTN News

Hidden since the Jubilee of 2000, the Holy Door in St. Peter's Basilica was revealed Tuesday as the brick wall covering it was removed in anticipation of the Holy Year of Mercy launching next month. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Angelo Comastri, the ... continue reading

5 powerful Bible verses you need when fear and terror strike Watch

Image of


Fear is a powerful thing. Fear can completely cripple the body and soul. Since the terrifying Paris terrorist attacks last week the news has been full of death, terrorists, murder and fear. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Those not in power are left wondering ... continue reading

All Living Faith News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • The Miracle Prayer HD Video
  • Prayer For Courage HD Video
  • Daily Readings for Saturday, November 28, 2015
  • 'Black Friday' leaving bruises as shoppers trample each other for ...
  • St. Catherine Laboure: Saint of the Day for Saturday, November 28, 2015
  • President likens Syrian refugees to pilgrims on Mayflower in ...
  • BIGGER THAN ISIS - There's a hidden power behind ISIS and it's so big ...

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Daniel 7:15-27
15 'I, Daniel, was deeply disturbed and the visions that passed through ... Read More

Psalm, Daniel 3:82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 87
82 Bless the Lord, all the human race: praise and glorify him for ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 21:34-36
34 'Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened by debauchery and ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 28th, 2015 Image

St. Catherine Laboure
November 28: St. Catherine Laboure, virgin, was born on May 2, ... Read More