The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

O Wisdom, That with God’s Own Breath

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.

Translator: Henry Charles Beeching (1859-1919)

Tune: "Steterburg" by Rev. Nicolaus Decius (16th century; d. 1541)

Meter: 88 88 88

See: Notes on Veni, Veni, Emmanuel

Source: Charles H. Lloyd and Basil Harwood, eds., Church Hymns (Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1903), #80, pp. 128-129.

1 O Wisdom, that with God’s own breath
Didst wake the world to life from death,
And all things still from pole to pole
In calm obedience dost control:
Come, with mild strength our spirits sway,
And guide us on our heavenward way.

2 O Prince, Who didst in wrath uprise
To scatter Israel’s enemies,
To Moses gav’st the fiery sign,
And Thine own law to keep us Thine;
See Thy loved Church again a slave;
Again stretch forth Thine arm and save.

3 O, sprung from Jesse’s royal tree,
Thou Rod of power and majesty,
Our glorious ensign, hailed afar,
Daunting proud kings and men of war;
Come quickly, and from East and West
Rally the nations to Thy rest.

4 O Key, that canst unlock the door
Of heaven, and none can shut it more,
O righteous Scepter, that canst quell
Even our arch-foe, the lord of hell;
Come, rescue him who languisheth
In this dark prison-house of death.

5 O Splendor of the eternal Light,
Spring forth and dawn upon our sight;
Glad Sun of Righteousness, arise,
Disperse our sins and miseries;
Shine, shine on us who draw sad breath
In this dark universe of death.

6 O Thou, to Whom the nations bring
Their heart’s desire and hail Thee King;
The world’s, the Church’s cornerstone;
Who all the people hast made one;
Come, save poor man; ’tis Thou Who must;
For Thou didst form him of the dust.

7 O Thou, for Whom the nations wait,
Their promised Savior, tarrying late!
Our King and Lawgiver art Thou;
Be so to them and save them now.
O come, with them and us to dwell,
Our King, our God, Emmanuel.

Sheet Music to "Steterburg" by Rev. Nicolaus Decius (16th century; d. 1541)  from Church Hymns, #80, p. 128.
Meter: Six 8s.

O_Wisdom_That-Ch_Hms-80-1903.jpg (73635 bytes)


In the text, Canon Beeching gives the Latin for each verse prior the verse. They are:

  1. O Sapientia, quæ ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attigens a fine usque ad finem, fortier, suaviterque disponens omnia; veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae.
  2. O Adonai, et dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammæ rubi apparuisti, et in Sina legem dedisti, veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.
  3. O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populoru, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem Gentes deprecabuntur; veni ad redimendum nos, jam noli tardare.
  4. O Clavis David, & sceptrum domus Israel: qui aperis, et nemo claudit: claudis, & nemo aperit; veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris & umbra mortis.
  5. O Oriens Splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae; veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris et umbra mortis.
  6. O Rex Gentium, Deus Israel, et Salvator, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum; veni, & salva hominem quem de limo formasti.
  7. O Emmanuel, rex et legifer noster, expectatio Gentium, & desideratus earum; veni ad salvandum nos, Domine Deus noster.

The seven O Antiphons or "Greater" Antiphons were a series of antiphons recited in the eight days before Christmas. They became the basis for the well known hymn, "Veni, Veni, Emanuel," the most popular translation of which was by John Mason Neale, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

The “titles” of the original seven antiphons are:

  1. O Sapientia, quae ex ore altissimi... (O Wisdom from on high...)

  2. O Adonai et dux domus Israel... (O Lord and leader of the house of Israel...)

  3. O Radix Jesse qui stas in signum populorum... (O Root of Jesse who stood as a standard of the people...)

  4. O Clavis David et sceptrum domus... (O Key of David and scepter of our home...)

  5. O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae... (O Dayspring, splendor of eternal light...)

  6. O Rex gentium et desideratus... (O longed-for King of the nations...)

  7. O Emmanuel, rex et legifer noster... (O Emmanuel, our king and law-giver...)

Print Page Return Home Page Close Window

If you would like to help support Hymns and Carols of Christmas, please click on the button below and make a donation.

Related Hymns and Carols