How often do you hear that, or say it on your way to church?
Well, surprise! You get to say it in church, too.
As we enter the final days of Advent, we also approach the “O Antiphons.” Since the eighth century, these have been part of the daily evening prayer of the church — called Vespers. After Vatican II, they have also been part of the daily Gospel acclamations during the week before Christmas Eve and starting on Dec. 17.
You may not know the “O Antiphons,” but you probably know the song “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” It’s a song that gives us a way to pray, urging God to “Hurry up and come soon.”
Each verse of this Advent hymn parallels the O Antiphons. However, it uses the last antiphon, the antiphon for Dec. 23, for its refrain. That antiphon is “O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of the Law: Come to save us, Lord our God!”
Each of the seven antiphons echoes words of the prophets Isaiah and Micah, both of whom we hear from during Advent. Isaiah and Micah both announced the coming of Emmanuel (God with us).
Each antiphon is a title that one of these prophets gave to Emmanuel. So, in order, we have: Sapientia, Wisdom, Dec. 17; Adonai, Lord, Dec. 18; Radix Jesse, Root of Jesse, Dec. 19; Clavis David, Key of David, Dec. 20; Oriens, Radiant Dawn, Dec. 21; Rex Gentium, King of all Nations, Dec. 22; and Emmanuel, God With Us, Dec. 23.
Notice how the first letters of the titles are highlighted. That leads to Dec. 24. If you take the first letters from each title, in reverse order, they form the words Ero cras. That’s Latin for “Tomorrow I come.” It’s what Jesus is saying to us on Dec. 24: “Tomorrow I come!”
So, as we near the last days of Advent, we can increase our calling out to the Lord. “O Come, O Come.”
As you wait with the church for the Nativity of the Lord, look around for reminders of these Emmanuel titles:
— “ Root of Jesse” is echoed in the growing plants in church;
— “Key of David” resounds in the ope n doors and
— “Radiant dawn” is sent in the light through stained glass and the candles of the Advent wreath.
There are lots of others, both in church and in the world around. Each time you recognize one of the Emmanuel titles in the next week, whisper “Come, O Lord, hurry up.” He’ll assure you: “Ero cras.”
Kasten is an associate editor of The Compass and the author of “Linking Your Beads: The Rosary’s History, Mysteries and Prayers.”