Saturday, December 17, 2011

Celebrating the O Antiphons :: The Golden Nights

Ever since our oldest children were very little, we have been implementing an old monastic custom in our home of providing special treats, representing each of the "O Antiphons," on the days leading up to Christmas.  Each night, after our family rosary, we pray the O Antiphon for the day, sing O Come, O Come Emmanuel (which was inspired by this ancient tradition), and then give the children a special treat.    Some years it has been little gifts for the family, some years it is all food related, and some years it is a mix of both.   You can see some of my past posts from 2007-2010 by scrolling through the archives and visiting Catholic Cuisine.

This year, being full term and expecting a baby at any time, I decided to avoid any food treats that needed preparation, and have 7 little gifts wrapped and ready for the children, so that they can still open them, whether I end up being home or not.   I wrapped each of the gifts in gold paper, attaching one of our new O Antiphon Ornaments to each package, and set out our O Antiphon House.
The Benedictine monks arranged these antiphons with a definite purpose. If one starts with the last title and takes the first letter of each one - Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia - the Latin words ero cras are formed, meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come.” Therefore, the Lord Jesus, whose coming we have prepared for in Advent and whom we have addressed in these seven Messianic titles, now speaks to us, “Tomorrow, I will come.” So the “O Antiphons” not only bring intensity to our Advent preparation, but bring it to a joyful conclusion.
The O Antiphon Prayers begin today, December 17th, and end on the 23rd, which is the last Vespers of Advent, since the evening prayer on the 24th is the Vigil of Christmas.  Our family just loves this little tradition, and it is such a fun way to teach the children about these beautiful prayers of the church and also increase their excitement as Christmas gets closer!  Here are the treats that I choose for this year:

December 17th
O Wisdom that comest out of the mouth of the Most High, that reachest from one end to another, and orderest all things mightily and sweetly, come to teach us the way of prudence!

Since the symbol for wisdom is a book, I often choose a new Catholic Book for our family.  This year I choose Around the Year: Once Upon a Time Saints. We have, and love, the previous two books in this collection (Once upon a Time Saints and More Once Upon a Time Saints) and have been wanting to add this one to our collection as well.

In past years we have given the children the beautiful A Catholic Child's Picture Dictionar, Novena: The Power of Prayer, new children's prayer books for Mass, and a craft kit to make Christmas Bookmarks.     

December 18th
O Adonai, and Ruler of the house of Israel, Who didst appear unto Moses in the burning bush, and gavest him the law in Sinai, come to redeem us with an outstretched arm!

We usually emphasize the word "house" in this Antiphon, and have made our Gingerbread Houses or Gingerbread Cookies on this night.   Last year I gave the kids a fun new Gingerbread House Cookie Cutter.  This year, I was able to find another one of the Wilton Gingerbread Mini Village Kits and purchased it for this night.   I'm still hoping that sometime during the Christmas season we will be able to host another night of Gingerbread Fun, but I haven't chosen a date yet! ;)

In the past we have also roasted marshmallows over a fire on this night, drawing from the reference to "Moses in the burning bush," which is always lots of fun too.  I might just have to talk Hubby into lighting a fire in our outdoor fire pit tomorrow night, since (at this rate) I don't think I am going to be going anywhere anytime soon! 

December 19th
O Root of Jesse, which standest for an ensign of the people, at Whom the kings shall shut their mouths, Whom the Gentiles shall seek, come to deliver us, do not tarry.

In the past I have purchased our Poinsettia Plant for Christmas, new books including The Legend of the Poinsettia and The Miracle of the First Poinsettia, baked Poinsettia Cupcakes, made recipes with root vegetables including Hearty Beef Stew and Carrot Cake, or served Root Beer.  This year I picked up some Old Fashioned Root Beer Drops on a recent field trip to use for this O Antiphon gift!

December 20th
O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel, that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth, come to liberate the prisoner from the prison, and them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.

Since this is initially a monastic tradition, and on this night, the monk in charge of the wine cellar would provide a special bottle of wine. We usually always serve a special drink with dinner.  Sometimes I also serve a Key Lime Pie as well. Yum!

This year I opted to purchase a couple key hook rails from Target to use to hang our Rosaries.  (I already have two of these in my pantry for my aprons and they are wonderful!)

December 21st
O Dayspring, Brightness of the everlasting light, Son of justice, come to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death!

For this day, I have ordered the Kurt Adler 10-Light Candle with Gold Dish Light Set (which was a lot less expensive when I ordered ours) to add to our Christmas Tree, inspired by Around the Year with the Trapp Family:

"In our house the large Christmas tree, twelve feet high, always a beautiful, thick balsam fir, requires a lot of time to be decorated "the old way." During the preceding nights, the older children have wrapped up candies in tinfoil or in tissue paper with fringed edges and have then tied red thread to candies as well as to hundreds of cookies. They are hung on the tree first. On the lower branches we hang also small apples and tangerines. Then come Christmas-tree decorations from our home studios--angels and stars worked in silver or brass, which will glitter later in the light of the candles. Yes, candles--because there will be six dozen small candleholders with real candles fastened to the branches. (On either side of the tree there will be a camouflaged bucket with water and a mop with a long handle "just in case." So far we have never needed it.) Next, dozens of packages of tinsel are emptied on twigs and branches; and the last touch is silver chains spinning in spider-web fashion, criss-crossed from branch to branch. The final effect is like a fairy tale." 

Other past ideas include a surprise trip to town (complete with mugs of Cocoa) to view Christmas Lights,  decorating our own house or tree with Christmas lights, and serving "O Dayspring Ice Cream."

December 22nd
O King of the Gentiles, yea, and desire thereof! O Corner-stone, that makest of two one, come to save man, whom Thou hast made out of the dust of the earth!

Originally I really wanted to order a beautiful set of Three Kings Gifts, but since they are all so expensive I settled on a lovely Three Kings Puzzle for the kids to work on during the 12 days of Christmas, leading up to Epiphany.  However, since it is only a 550 piece puzzle, I'm thinking it isn't going to take them that long!

Other years we have made Crowns, added a "King" puppet to our puppet collection, baked a Crown Cake and/or Cookies, and added the King of the Golden City CD to our collection.

December 23rd
O Emmanuel, our King and our Law-giver, Longing of the Gentiles, yea, and salvation thereof, come to save us, O Lord our God!

This is the last of the O Antiphons!  I actually ended up having two gifts for this day, since I ended up ordering the Holy Family Puzzle - which I may save and give them on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Emmanuel means "God is with us."   Since we receive Christ through the Holy Eucharist at Mass, the original gift I ordered for this night was a beautiful new embroidered Mass bag from Catholic Embroidery.   These little totes work so wonderfully for carrying our prayer books and veils into Mass each Sunday.

In the past the children have been given special Holy Cards or Coloring Books, including the beautiful Eucharistic Adoration: With Saints And Symbols Of The Eucharist Coloring book, added various Children's Nativity Sets to our collection, and made a Chocolate Nativity Scene.

You can listen to the O Antiphons beautifully chanted in Latin here or purchase the CD An Advent Processions Based on the Great O Antiphons.

And don't forget the quick and easy O Antiphon Chocolate Coins, if you'd like a simple treat for each day!  I had hoped to make a Latin version of these coins sometime this past year, and just never did get around to it.

Can you believe that it is nearly Christmas already?! 
I hope you all have a very blessed final week of Advent!  


  1. Lovely Jessica!

    We had purchased the same lights for our tree this year. Inspired by the very same source.

    We'll be traveling a bit this week so our celebrations are packed to go, LOL.

  2. I really enjoyed reading through this post. What great ideas you have!

  3. Hi Jessica! I found your blog through Joy Beyond the Cross and visited because I've just recently learned of the O Antiphons myself. Thank you for this beautiful post! I will be reading your blog and learning from you! God bless!

  4. thanks Jessica!!! one year i truly will get on this one!

  5. What a blessing that you are so prepared, Jessica! May God Bless you and that new precious baby:) Thank you for all you share to enhance our faith and that of so many!

  6. Thank you so much! We have not included the O Antiphons in our family observances and I've felt that we were "leaving something out" for years. This is a wonderful help.
    Pax Christi, Michelle

  7. Hi Jessica!
    Could you tell me how your Kurt Adler 10-Light Candle set is working out/worked out for your Christmas tree???? This looks like a really cute and traditional way to trim the tree! I read some of the reviews at Amazon and some said they were "cheap" and broke easily or were too small for a larger tree.

    Would love to know how they worked for YOU!

    1. I really liked them! In fact, I was considering ordering a second set this year. They are small, but if they had been much bigger we probably would have had a tough time finding enough branches to hold the weight, with all our other ornaments. None of ours have broken.

    2. Thanks for the reply! I'll probably keep them in mind!

    3. Hi Jessica!
      I hope it's ok to share this link over at Sanctus Simplicitus - she was talking about using real candles on their Christmas tree, inspired by Maria von Trapp and I thought of this post you did that I'd recently seen. I know that you know her there, so hoping it's ok to share!


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