The season of Advent is divided into two parts. In the first part (fro the first Sunday in Advent to 16th December) the Liturgy is mostly concerned with the final coming of Christ in Glory. The mood is one of hope and expectation, like waiting at the airport for a close friend, anxious only not to miss the friend in the crowd. A key figure to help us focus on the coming of Christ is Elijah, in the Old or New version. In the New Testament, Elijah appears as John the Baptizer.
From December 17th onward till Christmas itself there is a heightened sense of expectation and a sharper focus on the actual birth of the Messiah, Jesus the Lord. For seven days, prophecies and fulfilments respond to each other in the readings of the Mass provided for each day.
Mary is at the centre of this immediate preparation for Christmas. She is the expectant mother who carries the child towards the birth on which everything converges.
At evening prayer in these days of more immediate preparation for Christmas the Church offers us seven Antiphons (verses) which catch the mood of prayerful preparation. These are called the “O Antiphons” because each one being with the exclamation “O”.
The O Antiphons (printed out separately in this bulletin) express the messianic expectation of the Old Testament, the greatness of the Incarnate Word and the role of the Word made Flesh for all humanity.
They can be used for meditation and intercession and can guarantee us a moment of Spirit-filled anticipation in the midst of our frantic material preparations. May they help us all to let the Word be born in us this Christmastide.
Fr Sean Wales, C.Ss.R.