The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Great Advent Antiphons
Three Prose Translations

For Advent

Words: Veni, Veni, Emanuel (the "O" Antiphons),
Authorship Unknown, 8th Century Latin;
Published As A Hymn in Psalteriolum Cantionum Catholicarum, 7th Edition, Köln, 1710.

Music: "Veni Emmanuel," Based on a 15th Century French Processional,
Arranged by Rev. Thomas Helmore  and harmonized by Rev. S. S. Greatheed in
Hymnal Noted, Part II (London: 1856)
and

Accompanying Harmonies to the Hymnal Noted-Part II
(London: 1858)
MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML
Melody Only: MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF / XML

Meter: 88 88 88

See: Notes on Veni, Veni, Emmanuel

Editor's Note:

Here are three prose translations of the Greater Antiphons.

Each version contains eight antiphons, not the usual seven (and Dom Guéranger adds four additional antiphons). The eighth antiphon, O Virgo virginum, an antiphon to Mary, the mother of Jesus, was added by the liturgiologist Amalarius in the Ninth Century, and is found in the Sarum, York, and Hereford Breviaries, as well as others. See: "Antiphons," John Julian, Dictionary of Hymnology, 1892, 1907 (Reprinted by Dover in 1957, in two volumes).

According to Professor Albert S. Cook, it is included for the feast of the Expectation of the Virgin, Dec. 18, although The English Hymnal and The Salisbury Antiphony designate it as the reading for Dec. 23. Guéranger' gives:

O Virgo Virginum, quomodo fiet istud? quia nec primam similem visa es, nec habere sequentem. Filiæ Jerusalem, quid me admiramini? Divinum est mysterium hoc quod cernitis.


I. Translation by Birkbeck, The English Hymnal (1906)

The Great Advent Antiphons

Source: W. J. Birkbeck, et al., eds., The English Hymnal. London: Oxford University Press, 1906, #734, pp. 878-879.

December 16. O Sapientia. O Wisdom, which camest out of the mouth of the Most High, and reachest from one end to another, mightily and sweetly ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence.

December 17. O Adonai. O Adonai, and Leader of the house of Israel, who appearest in the bush to Moses in a flame of fire, and gavest him the Law in Sinai: Come and deliver us with an outstreatched arm.

December 18. O Radix Jesse. O Root of Jesse, which standest for an ensign of the people, at whom kings shall shut their mouths, to whom the Gentiles shall seek: Come and deliver us, and tarry not.

December 19. O Clavis David. O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel; that openest, and no man shutteth, and shuttest, and no man openeth: Come and bring the prisoner out of the prison-house, and him that sitteth in darkness and the shadow of death.

December 20. O Oriens. O Day-spring, Brightest of Light Everlasting, and Sun of Ritghteousness: Come and enlighten him that sitteth in the drkness and the shadow of death.

December 21. O Rex Gentium. O King of the Nations, and their desire; the Corner-stone, who makest both one: Come and save mankind, whom thou formedst of clay.

December 22. O Emmanuel. O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Desire of all nations, and their Salvation: Come and save us, O Lord our God.

December 23. O Virgo virginum. O Virgin of virgins, how shall this be? For neither before thee was any like thee, nor shall there be after. Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me? The thing which ye behold is a divine mystery.


II. Translation by Guéranger, The Liturgical Year: Advent, Vol. 1 of 14 (ca. 1841)

The Great Antiphons

Source: Dom Prosper Guéranger, OSB, The Liturgical Year, Volume 1, Advent (ca. 1841), translated from the French by Dom Laurence Shepherd, O.S.B., ca. 1867.

December 17: O Wisdom, that proceedest from the mouth of the Most High, reaching from end to end mightily, and disposing all things sweetly! come and teach us in the way of prudence.

December 18: O Adonai, and leader of the house of Israel, who appearedst to Moses in the fire of the flaming bush, and gavest him the law on Sinai; come and redeem us by thy outstretched arm.

    Also on December 18, The Expectation of the Blessed Virgin Mary: O Virgin of Virgins! how shall this be? for never was there one like thee, nor will there ever be. Ye daughters of Jerusalem, why look ye wondering at me? What ye behold, is a divine mystery.

December 19: O Root of Jesse, who standest as the ensign of the people; before whom kings shall not open their lips; to whom the nations shall pray: come and deliver us; tarry now no more.

December 20: O Key of David, and sceptre 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.

    Also on December 20, The Angel Gabriel: O Gabriel! the messenger of heaven, who camest unto me through the closed doors, and didst announce the Word unto me: Thou shalt conceive and bear a Son, and he shall be called Emmanuel.

December 21: O Orient! splendour of eternal light, and Sun of justice! come and enlighten them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.

    Also on December 21, St. Thomas, Apostle: O Thomas Didymus! who didst merit to see Christ; we beseech thee, by most earnest supplication, help us miserable sinners, lest we be condemned with the ungodly, at the coming of the Judge.

December 22: O King of nations, and their desired One, and the corner-stone that makest both one; come and save man whom thou formedst out of slime.

    Also on December 22, The Great Antiphon In Honour Of Christ: O King of peace! that wast born before all ages, come by the golden gate; visit them whom thou hast redeemed, and lead them back to the place whence they fell by sin.

December 23: O Emmanuel, our King and Lawgiver, the Expectation and Saviour of the nations! come and save us, O Lord our God!

    Also on December 23, The Great Antiphon To Jerusalem: O Jerusalem! city of the great God: lift up thine eyes round about, and see thy Lord, for he is coming to loose thee from thy chains.


III. Translation by Neale, The Hymnal Noted - Parts I and II (1856)

The Greater Antiphons

At Even-song During Eight Days Before Christmas

From the Salisbury Antiphonary

Source: John Mason Neale and Thomas Helmore, eds., Hymnal Noted - Parts I and II. London: Novello, 1856, pp. 207-209.

O Sapientia

Evening Antiphon for December 16

O Wisdom, Which camest forth out of the mouth of the Most High,
and reachest from one end to the other,
mightily and sweetly ordering all things;
Come and teach us the way of prudence.

O Adonai

Evening Antiphon for December 17

O Lord and Ruler of the House of Israel,
Who appearedst unto Moses in a flame of fire in the bush,
and gavest unto him the Law of Sinai:
Come redeem us with a stretched-out arm.

O Radix Jesse

Evening Antiphon for December 18

O Root of Jesse, Who standest for an ensign of the people,
at Whom Kings shall shut their mouths,
unto Whom the Gentiles shall pray:
Come and deliver us, and tarry not.

O Clavis David

Evening Antiphon for December 19

O Key of David, and Scepture of the House of Israel,
Thou That openest and no man shutteth, and shuttest, and no man openeth:
Come, and lose the prisoner from the prison house,
and him that sitteth in darkness, from the shadow of death.

O Oriens

Evening Antiphon for December 20

O Orient, Brightest of the Eternal Light,
and Sun of Righteousness:
Come and lighten them that sit in darkness,
and in the shadow of death.

O Rex Gentium

Evening Antiphon for December 21

O King of the Gentiles, and their Desire,
the Corner-stone, Who madest both one:
Come and save man,
whom Thou hast made out of the dust of the earth.

O Emmanuel

Evening Antiphon for December 22

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

O Virgo Virginum

Evening Antiphon for December 23

O Virgin of Virgins, how shall this be?
For neither before thee was there any like thee,
nor shall there be after. —
Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel ye at me?
The thing that ye behold is a divine mystery.

The Greater Antiphons, pp. 207-209.

Musical Scores to "The Greater Antiphons" from Helmore, Accompanying Harmonies (1852), pp. 348-353.

Helmore-O_Sapientia-Acc_Harm_Hml_Ntd-1852-p348.jpg (96274 bytes) Helmore-O_Adonoi-Acc_Harm_Hml_Ntd-1852-p349.jpg (100363 bytes) Helmore-O_Radix_Jesse-Acc_Harm_Hml_Ntd-1852-p350.jpg (99259 bytes) Helmore-O_Clavis_David-Acc_Harm_Hml_Ntd-1852-p351.jpg (107192 bytes) Helmore-O_Oriens-O_Rex_Gntm1-Acc_Harm_Hml_Ntd-1852-p352.jpg (104267 bytes) Helmore-O_Rex_Gntm2-O_Emmanuel-Acc_Harm_Hml_Ntd-1852-p353.jpg (109793 bytes)

Musical Score to "O Virgo Virginum" from Helmore, Accompanying Harmonies (1852), p. 354.

Helmore-O_Virgo_Virginum-Acc_Harm_Hml_Ntd-1852-p354.jpg (104795 bytes)

Editor's Note:

In Advent, Abbott Prosper Louis Guéranger, O.S.B., explored numerous topics relative to that season, including the seven Great Antiphons (plus translation four "added" antiphons). Advent is volume 1 of the 15-volume The Liturgical Year, begun circa 1841. Translation by Dom Laurence Shepherd, O.S.B., circa 1867. Guéranger's Preface: The Commencement of the Great Antiphons. His commentaries on the individual Antiphons:

See: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel - Version 1, Christ by Cynewulf, The O Antiphons and The Prose Antiphons.

Albert S. Cook, The Christ of Cynewulf. Boston: Ginn & Co., 1900). (http://www.archive.org/details/christpoeminthre00cyneuoft ); accessed March 25, 2007.

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