The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

O Wisdom, Which Camest Forth out of the Mouth of the Most High

For Advent - At Even-song During Eight Days Before Christmas.

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

Translation by John Mason Neale from the Verses found in the Salisbury Antiphonary (Paris, 1519).

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)

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

Source: John Mason Neale and Thomas Helmore, eds., Hymnal Noted - Parts I and II. (London: Novello, 1856), pp. 207-209, and John Mason Neale, The Words of the Hymnal Noted, Complete With Scripural References. (London: J. A. Novello and J. Masters), pp. 130-132.

Scriptural references are from the 1889 Douay-Rheims Bible, American Edition.

1. O Sapientia — Evening Antiphon for December 16

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

a. Wisdom 8:1. She reacheth therefore from end to end mightily, and ordereth all things sweetly.

2. O Adonai — Evening Antiphon for December 17

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

b. 1 Samuel 12:12. But seeing that Naas king of the children of Ammon was come against you, you said to me: Nay, but a king shall reign over us: whereas the Lord your God was your king.

c. Exodus 3:2. And the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he saw that the bush was on fire and was not burnt.

d. Exodus 19:11. And let them be ready against the third day: for on the third day the Lord will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai.
   Acts 7:30. And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the desert of mount Sina, an angel in a flame of fire in a bush.

e. Deuteronomy 26:8. And brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand, and a stretched out arm, with great terror, with signs and wonders:

3. O Radix Jesse — Evening Antiphon for December 18

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

f. Isaiah 11:10.  In that day the root of Jesse, who standeth for an ensign of the people, him the Gentiles shall beseech, and his sepulchre shall be glorious.;
   Romans 15:12.

[Editor's Note. And also Isaiah 11:1. And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root.]

g. Isaiah 3:15. Why do you consume my people, and grind the faces of the poor? saith the Lord the God of hosts.

4. O Clavis David — Evening Antiphon for December 19

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

h. Revelation 3:7. And to the angel of the church of Philadelphia, write: These things saith the Holy One and the true one, he that hath the key of David; he that openeth, and no man shutteth; shutteth, and no man openeth: [emphasis added]

i. Numbers 24:17. I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not near. A STAR SHALL RISE out of Jacob and a sceptre shall spring up from Israel: and shall strike the chiefs of Moab, and shall waste all the children of Seth.

k. Isaiah 22:22. And I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulder: and he shall open, and none shall shut: and he shall shut, and none shall open.

l. Psalm 107:16. Because he hath broken gates of brass, and burst the iron bars. [In the Douay-Rheims Bible, this is Psalm 106:17. Ed.]

5. O Oriens — Evening Antiphon for December 20

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

m. Zechariah 3:8 -- "My servant in the East." [Editor's Note: Rev. Neale gave the foregoing text; the full citation from the Douay-Rheims version of Zechariah 3:8 is "Hear, O Jesus thou high priest, thou and thy friends that dwell before thee, for they are portending men: for behold I WILL BRING MY SERVANT THE ORIENT." Note that most translations give "my servant, the branch [of David)." And, likewise, the name of the high priest is most frequently translated as "Joshua."

n. Hebrews 1:3. Who being the brightness of his glory, and the figure of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, making purgation of sins, sitteth on the right hand of the majesty on high.

o. Malachi 4:2. But unto you that fear my name, the Sun of justice shall arise, and health in his wings: and you shall go forth, and shall leap like calves of the herd.

p. Luke 1:79. To enlighten them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death: to direct our feet into the way of peace.

6. O Rex Gentium — Evening Antiphon for December 21

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

q. Haggai 2:7. For thus saith the Lord of hosts: Yet one little while, and I will move the heaven and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land.

r. Ephesians 2:14. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and breaking down the middle wall of partition, the enmities in his flesh:

s. Genesis 2:7. And the Lord God formed man of the slime of the earth: and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul.

7. O Emmanuel — Evening Antiphon for December 22

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

t. Matthew 1:23. Behold a virgin shall be with child, and bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

u. Isaiah 33:22. For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king: he will save us.

v. Haggai 2:7. For thus saith the Lord of hosts: Yet one little while, and I will move the heaven and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land.

w. Isaiah 25:9. And they shall say in that day: Lo, this is our God, we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord, we have patiently waited for him, we shall rejoice and be joyfull in his salvation.

8. O Virgo Virginum — Evening Antiphon for December 23

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

x. Luke 1:34. And Mary said to the angel: How shall this be done, because I know not man?

y. Jeremiah 31:22. How long wilt thou be dissolute in deliciousness, O wandering daughter? for the Lord hath created a new thing upon the earth: A WOMAN SHALL COMPASS A MAN.

z. Acts 3:12.  But Peter seeing, made answer to the people: Ye men of Israel, why wonder you at this? or why look you upon us, as if by our strength or power we had made this man to walk?

aa. 1 Timothy 3:16. And evidently great is the mystery of godliness, which was manifested in the flesh, was justified in the spirit, appeared unto angels, hath been preached unto the Gentiles, is believed in the world, is taken up in glory.

Musical settings to "The Greater Antiphons" from Neale and Helmore, eds., Hymnal Noted - Parts I and II. (1856), pp. 207-209.

Musical Settings for "The Greater Antiphons" from Helmore, Accompanying Harmonies To The Hymnal Noted, Part II (1858), pp. 348-354.

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


Originally, there were seven “Great O” 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), pp. 72-74.

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. See Albert S. Cook, The Christ of Cynewulf. (Boston: Ginn & Co., 1900). ( ); accessed March 25, 2007.

Another translation of the antiphons from the 1519 Salisbury Antiphoner was printed in 1930. This translation was by Rev. G. H. Palmer, who wrote that the translation had been "adapted to the Original Musick-Note." See: O Wisdom Which Camest Out-Palmer.

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