In the Last Days of Advent the Liturgy takes on a new flavour. The atmosphere is filled with an increased sense of preparation and excitement. This is seasoned with a healthy does of desire. My favourite piece of liturgical music - O come, O come, Emmanuel! beautifully articulates this new atmosphere. Each night at Vespers, the Magnificat, Mary's wonderful hymn of praise and hope is begun and ended with one of the 'O' antiphons.
The exact origin of the 'O' Antiphons is not known. Boethius (c. 480-524) made a slight reference to them, thereby suggesting their presence at that time. By the eighth century, they were in use in the liturgical celebrations in Rome.
The importance of 'O' Antiphons is twofold: each one highlights a title of the Messiah: 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 Nations), and O Emmanuel; also, each one refers to the prophecy of Isaiah looking forward to the coming of the Messiah.
Tonight we sing in praise of divine Wisdom -