The Great O Antiphons – O Emmanuel

The Great O Antiphons were traditionally sung before and after the Magnificat at Evensong starting on December 17.They are most familiar to us as they were paraphrased as the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”


The reflections are a gift from the Reverend Canon Leonel L. Mitchell, Th.D. He is the retired professor of liturgics at Seabury-Western Theological Seminary and Canon Theologian of the Episcopal Cathedral of St. James, South Bend, IN.


O Emmanuel – December 23

O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Desire of all nations and their Salvation: Come and save us, O Lord our God.

This final O antiphon is probably the best-known, since it is paraphrased as the opening verse of the Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” Emmanuel, of course, means God is with us, and in today’s Gospel St. Matthew in telling the story of the annunciation to Joseph comments, “All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet [Isaiah]: ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel.” We don’t have to get lost in wondering what exactly Isaiah had in mind. In this context it is enough to know how the evangelist understood it. Jesus is the one whom peoples desire, who is coming to save us. All that has been longed for is happening. Mary’s Son is the promised Savior. O come let us adore him!