We have reached the point in the Christmas countdown where you don’t have to count how many days  but how many Os are left.

The Roman Catholic Church has been singing the O Antiphons, also known as “the great Os (not to be confused with a popular LSU coach),” since at least the eighth century. O Antiphons are the verses for the ancient hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and the seven antiphons that accompany the Magnificat canticle of Liturgy of the Hours for Vespers from Dec. 17-23, with Dec. 24 the Christmas Eve Vigil. 

They are described as “a magnificent theology that uses ancient biblical imagery drawn from the messianic hopes of the Old Testament to proclaim the coming of Christ as the fulfillment not only of Old Testament hopes, but present ones as well. Their repeated use of the imperative ‘Come!’ bids him to hurry and come.”

Each antiphon is a name of Latin Messianic title for Christ:

• Wisdom (Sapientia)  

• Lord of Israel (Adonai)  

• Root of Jesse (Radix Jesse) 

• Key of David (Clavis David)  

• Rising Dawn (Oriens)   

• King of the Gentiles (Rex Gentium)  

• Emanuel  (Emmanuel, God with us)  

Web sites are filled with creative ideas to celebrate the O Antiphons.

You can make printable 3-D O Antiphon ornaments and place them on your Jesse or Christmas tree each evening of the antiphons.

Or you can make an O Antiphon Poinsettia wreath. 

Emphasizing that “homestretch to Christmas” can be done by constructing an O Antiphon house, a small cardboard house with seven windows, each hiding the appropriate symbol for the O Antiphon of the day. Be sure to include an eighth window with an altar for Vigil Mass and ninth window depicting the Nativity scene for Christmas Day. The house can be drawn on flat cardstock, or later shaped into a tower, by bending the cardstock into a circle.

And of course, what’s a celebration of the antiphons without food? While doing this you are reviving the old custom of the monks at different monasteries furnishing extra treats on these days to the members of the community.

You can bake Christmas cookies in the shapes symbolizing the theme of the various antiphons. Adhere some O Antiphon imagery to your chocolate gold coin wrappers and turn them into O Antiphon chocolate gold coins. These could recall the spirit of the psalmist when he wrote: “Taste and see how good the Lord is” (Ps 33:9).

Those fond of wordplay will find something in the O Antiphons for them as well. Reverse the titles for Christ, which then becomes Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai and Sapientia— and they spell out ERO CRAS, meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come.” 

An excellent and spiritual way to end Advent and celebrate the coming of Christ!