O Come O Come Emmanuel

December 16, 2011

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O Come O Come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear. Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Beginning on Dec. 17, the Church prays for the hastening of Christ’s arrival.  At Vespers each night, she sings the great “O Antiphons” before the Magnificat, beckoning for He who is Wisdom from on high, Lord of Might, Rod of Jesse’s stem, Key of David, Dayspring from on high, King of the Nations, and Emmanuel to come and pitch His tent among us.  These antiphons have likewise made their way into the culture of Christmas music that you hear at stores and on radio stations, not to mention most Catholic churches, in the form of the hymn “O Come O Come Emmanuel, which bases its verses on the O Antiphons. The authors of these antiphons not only had a great theological insight into the arrival of the Christ as expressed in each of the individual antiphons, but they also ordered them so that when they are read backwards chronologically from the 23rd to the 17th, the titles of Christ in Latin form an acronym which spells “ERO CRAS” – I will come tomorrow.  In other words, not only are we praying for his hastening each day individually, but we are also praying for it over the course of a seven-day period.  This is likewise expressed by the choice of the Gospel texts for Mass each day from the 17th to the 24th, which present the immediate moments preceding the nativity of Christ, beginning with the geneology in the Gospel of Matthew and moving up to the birth of John the Baptist. This year, as we draw near to this great moment of our salvation, may we open our hearts to receive the One who is to come, not only into the world but also into our hearts.  May we gaze with great longing in these last days upon that stable in Bethlehem so that when God is seen with us, we may be ready to joyfully sing with the angels, “Gloria in excelsis Deo” – Glory to God in the highest! This version of “O Come O Come Emmanuel” was set by Fr. James J. Moore, O.P. of the Western Dominican Province and sung by the Schola Cantorum of the Dominican House of Studies.

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