“Tomorrow, I will come” (The Great O Antiphons)
First, have you ever heard of “The Great O Antiphons”? They’re the source of the verses in the hymn O Come O Come Emmanuel. Since the middle ages, they’ve been said or sung at evening prayer, one each per evening, the seven days leading up to Christmas eve. Each verse highlights a title of the Messiah and a prophecy from Isaiah: O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Rising Sun), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Gentiles), and O Emmanuel (O God-with-us).
What’s cool is what you can see when you get to Christmas eve. You’ve just sung “O Emmanuel” (O “God with us”). You look back at the verses you’ve sung each day the previous week, and if you read the first letter of each verse (in Latin), you see the letters e r o c r a s formed: Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia which mean “Tomorrow, I will come.” It’s as if Jesus has just rewarded you with a personal whisper: “Tomorrow, I will come.”
That’s neat. The monks probably arranged it that way, but it’s a wonderful little extra-added sign of their faith (and an inspiration to ours). So, after seven days of praying these antiphons, we too can get to the last day, look back, see the message ero cras and rejoice that the Holy One will be here with us tomorrow.
Tomorrow, Christ will come.
Here are the great O antiphons:
December 17 — O SAPIENTIA: O Wisdom, you came forth from the mouth of the Most High and, reaching from beginning to end, you ordered all things mightily and sweetly. Come, and teach us the way of prudence.
December 18 — O ADONAI: O Adonai and Ruler of the House of Israel, you appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush and on Mount Sinai gave him your law. Come, and with outstretched arm redeem us.
December 19 — O RADIX JESSE: O Root of Jesse, you stand as a sign for the peoples; before you kings shall keep silence and to you all nations shall have recourse. Come, save us, and do not delay.
December 20 — O CLAVIS DAVID: O Key of David and Scepter of the House of Israel; you open and no one closes; you close and no one opens. Come, and deliver from the chains of prison those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
December 21 — O ORIENS: O Rising Dawn, Radiance of the Light eternal and Sun of Justice: come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
December 22 — O REX GENTIUM: O King of the Gentiles and the Desired of all, you are the cornerstone that binds two into one. Come, and save humanity which you fashioned out of clay.
December 23 — O EMMANUEL: O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Expected of the nations and their Savior. Come and save us, O Lord our God.