O Come, O Come Emmanuel fills my heart with longing for the coming of our Savior during this time of year.
I recently just learned its melody is based on Gregorian Chant, and it’s verses are all taken from the Church’s “O” Antiphons which refer to the seven antiphons that are recited, or chanted, proceeding the Magnificat during Vespers of the Liturgy of the Hours. According to the USCCB, the Roman Church has been singing the “O” Antiphons since at least the eighth century. They are the antiphons that accompany the Magnificat canticle of Evening Prayer, and they cover the special period of Advent preparation known as the Octave before Christmas, December 17-23. The importance of O Antiphons is twofold as each of them highlights a title for the Messiah and refers to the prophecy of Isaiah of the coming of the Messiah:
O Wisdom (Sapienta),” “O sacred Lord (O Adonai),” “O Flower of Jesse’s Stem (O Radix of Jesse),” “O Key of David (O Clavis David),” “O Radiant Dawn (O Oriens),” “O King of all the nations (O Rex Gentium),” and finally, “O Emmanuel” which means “God with us.”
These are a magnificent theology that uses ancient biblical imagery drawn from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming Christ as the fulfillment not only of Old Testament hopes, but present ones as well. Their repeated use of the imperative “Come!” embodies the longing of all for the Divine Messiah.
Today I invite the Holy Spirit to “come” and live in my heart.