How to pray your way to the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth
Posted in , Dec 17, 2018
There are many ways to pray your way to the annual celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth. Some people use an Advent calendar to mark the days leading up to Christmas. Others sing, pray or read as they light candles in an Advent wreath every morning or evening. Some use a devotional book or pamphlet to make this special season even more meaningful.
An ancient tradition is to pray one of seven prayers, sometimes called the “O Antiphons” (also called “The Great Os”) each evening of the week before Christmas Eve (an antiphon is a short, chanted prayer or verse, sometimes sung as a call-and-response by two singers or groups). Each of these prayers is based on a messianic title drawn from the prophet Isaiah:
1) O Wisdom (Isaiah 11:2-3, 28:29)
coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other mightily,
and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.
2) O Lord (Isaiah 11:4-5, 33:22)
O Lord of ancient Israel,
who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush,
who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain:
come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.
3) O Root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1, 10)
O Root of Jesse, you have been raised up
as a sign for all peoples;
kings stand silent in your presence;
the nations bow down in worship before you.
Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.
4) O Key of David (Isaiah 9:7, 22:2, 42:7)
O Key of David and scepter of the House of Israel,
controlling at your will the gate of heaven:
come, break down the prison walls of death
for those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death;
and lead your captive people into freedom.
5) O Morning Star (Isaiah 9:2)
O Morning Star,
splendor of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death.
6) O King of the Gentiles (Isaiah 2:4, 9:6, 64:8)
O King of the Gentiles and their desired One,
the cornerstone that makes both one:
Come, and deliver man,
whom you formed out of the dust of the earth.
7) O Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:14)
O Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
the hope of the nations and their Savior:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.
The familiar hymn, “O come, O come, Emmanuel,” is a paraphrase of the O Antiphons, though the verses are typically sung in a different order. In addition, many choral settings of these prayers can be found online.
In whatever form you pray, chant or sing these prayers, let them prepare your heart for the celebration of Jesus’ birth this year.