In this fourth and last part of our Advent in the Monastery series, we'd like to talk about the Great O Antiphons. Every Advent we look forward to the O Antiphons, which are a sure sign that Christmas is just around the corner! The Great O Antiphons are the Magnificat antiphons at Vespers as well as the Alleluia antiphon the last seven days of Advent. They begin on December 17th (yesterday) with O Sapientia- O Wisdom- and conclude on the 23rd with O Emmanuel. The O antiphons are very old, having been used in the Church's liturgy since at least the 8th century and possibly as early as the 6th century.
In our monastery the tradition is that the Chantress for the week, who would ordinarily intone the Magnificat antiphon, instead passes it to or invites the senior sisters beginning with the prioress. The beginning of the O Antiphons also marks the start of decorating in preparation for Christmas! Trees go up, greenery is hung, creches are set out (minus the Baby Jesus, of course!). Christmas lights are not turned on nor are candles lit until after Midnight Mass when the Baby appears in our (many!) nativity scenes.
The Great O Antiphons:
O Radix Jesse
O Clavis David
If you read the first initials backwards you get: Ero Cras, meaning "Tomorrow I come!"
You can read more about the Great O Antiphons here.