O Oriens

Solstice sunrise over Oxford

Solstice sunrise over Oxford

The Dawn Breaking, the Light of the World


O Oriens,
splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae:
veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Morning Star,
splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.


Choir of Merton College, Oxford, composer Cecilia McDowell

O Clavis David

The fourth antiphon for Advent.

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel;
qui aperis, et nemo claudit;
claudis, et nemo aperit:
veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel;
you who open and no man shuts;
you who shut and no man opens:
Come and lead out from the house of bondage,
the prisoner who is sitting in darkness and the shadow of death.

O Radix Jesse


O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem Gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.


Setting by Vytautas Miskinis – Vilnius State Choir with Moscow State Orchestra:

O Adonai

Adonai is the name of the Messiah to do with Kingship.

O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel,
qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti,
et ei in Sina legem dedisti:
veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

O Adonai, and leader of the House of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush
and gave him the law on Sinai:
Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.

This rendition is from Canta Cochita.

O Sapientia

The antiphon for 17th December, the first of the ‘O’ antiphons of Advents, is dedicated to Wisdom. Wisdom is deified in many cultures and is usually a goddess, e.g. Sophia, Athena and Saravati. Here she is the first epithet of the Messiah as prophesied by Isaiah. In the Christian tradition, Wisdom is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.


O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti,
attingens a fine usque ad finem,
fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia:
veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.

O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,
reaching from one end to the other,
mightily and sweetly ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

Sung by the Dominican student brothers at Blackfriars, Oxford: 

The Advent Antiphons – Tomorrow I Will Be.

Before there were advent calendars, the countdown to Christmas was done with song, using texts based on the names of the Messiah in the prophecy of Isaiah. They date back to at least the 6th century. They are intended to be read or sung as Morning or Evening Prayer and are called the ‘O Antiphons’ because each begins with the vocative O – O Sapientia, O Adonai etc. Over the centuries they have been set to some very beautiful music. Over the next seven days, I’ll put up the words for each one and links to music across the ages.

December 17th: O Sapientia (O Wisdom)

December 18th: O Adonai (O Lord)

December 19th: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)

December 20th: O Clavis David (O Key of David)

December 21st: O Oriens (O Dayspring)

December 22nd: O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations)

December 23rd: O Emmanuel (O With us is God)

If you take the first letters of the titles and spell them backwards – E-R-O-C-R-A-S – you get Ero Cras, which translates as ‘Tomorrow, I will be.’

The Latin of the texts to be quoted come from the Breviarium Romanum, the English from the Church of England’s Common Worship liturgy.

I hope you will enjoy this taste of Christmas as a time of quiet connectedness in the midst of all the hurly burly.

The Colours of the Church Year

I’m in the last days of editing A Gift for the Magus and Really Busy, thanks to having friends to hand who will say things like, ‘Are you sure about that altar frontal?’ Next thing you’re googling altar frontals — and finding they are available to buy on Ebay.

I am not finding what I’m looking for, but in the process I’ve come across this lovely site on the colour symbolism of the liturgical year which I thought I’d share. After all, who knows what you’re looking for today!