An antiphon (Greek ἀντίφωνον, ἀντί “opposite” + φωνή “voice”) in Christian music is a “responsory” by a congregation. Within Anglican custom, the O Antiphons were traditionally used with the Magnificat at Evening Prayer between 17-23 December. Through these songs Christians down the centuries have prayed for Christ to return. They are complemented by the song O Come All Ye Faithful, traditionally sung at the close of a Christmas Eve church service, which invites all people to adore the Lord.
Each antiphon is one of Christ’s attributes mentioned in Scripture. They are:
- December 17: O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
- December 18: O Adonai (O Lord)
- December 19: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
- December 20: O Clavis David (O Key of David)
- December 21: O Oriens (O Dayspring)
- December 22: O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations)
- December 23: O Emmanuel (O God is with Us)
The hymn ‘O come, O come, Emmanuel’ (in Latin, Veni Emmanuel) is a lyrical paraphrase of these antiphons. The first letters of the titles taken backwards form a Latin acrostic of “Ero Cras” which translates to “Tomorrow, I will be there”, mirroring the theme of the antiphons.