The "O" Antiphons are the seven Magnificat antiphons sung at Vespers
on the seven days preceding Christmas, beginning December 17. It is this last week of Advent which the Church calls the
Week of Expectation.
Dom Guéranger explains the meaning of the antiphons:
"The Church enters today on the seven days which precede the Vigil of Christmas, and which are known in the liturgy under the name of the Greater Ferias. The ordinary of the Advent Office becomes more solemn; the antiphons of the psalms, both for Lauds and the Hours of the day, are proper, and allude expressly to the great coming. Every day, at Vespers, is sung a solemn antiphon, consisting of a fervent prayer to the Messiah, whom it addresses by one of the titles given Him in the
"In the Roman Church, there are seven of these antiphons, one for each of the
Greater Ferias. They are commonly called the O's of Advent, because they all begin with that interjection... The canonical Hour of Vespers has been selected as the most appropriate time for this solemn supplication to our Savior, because, as the Church sings in one of her hymns, it was in the evening of the world (vergente mundi vespere) that the Messiah came amongst us.
"These antiphons are sung at the Magnificat, to show us that the Savior whom we expect is to come to us by Mary... These admirable antiphons, which contain the whole pith of the Advent liturgy, are accompanied by a chant replete with melodious gravity, and by ceremonies of great expressiveness. ...
"Let us enter into the spirit of the Church; let us reflect on the great day that is coming; that thus we may take our share in these the last and most earnest
solicitations of the Church imploring her Spouse to come, to which He at length yields."
Antiphons four through seven of The "O" Antiphons are listed below with their respective audio recordings.
They are here interpreted by Cantarte Regensburg.
4. O Clávis Dávid,
Et Scéptrum dómus Israel:
Qui áperis, et némo cláudit;
Cláudis, et némo áperit:
Véni, et éduc vínctum de dómo cárceris,
Sedéntem in ténebris et úmbra mórtis.
4. O Key of David,
And scepter of the House of Israel:
Who openest, and no man shutteth;
Who shuttest, and no man openeth:
Come, and lead the captive from prison,
Sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Listen to O Clávis David performed by Cantarte Regensburg
Virgin of the Expectation.
(A painting that seems to be from the
Translation of bottom text:
Devotion of Fr. [Bl.] Simon de Rojas... Expectation of the Birth [of Our Lord]
Virgin, that more pure sun,
Your hope assures us of [our] good,
Seven times with "O" the Holy Church
Sings this celestial mystery to Thee.
For a high-resolution JPG version of the above painting, see
Dom Guéranger, The Liturgical Year, St. Bonaventure Publications, 2000 (reprint of 1949), vol. 1, pp. 484.
Latin text and sheet music taken from
GregoBase, and is the same in the Liber Usualis, Desclée & Co., Tournai, 1934, pp. 340-342; English translation from The Liturgical Year, pp. 484-505