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The Greatest Christmas Hymn of All Time

hymnal-paper

One of the best summations of God’s promises to Israel and mankind is as close as your nearest hymnal.

I want you to imagine yourself in a monastery in the eighth century. It is December 17th and you’ve gathered with your brothers for Vespers, the sunset prayer service.

As with all Vespers, at the heart of the service is the chanting of select psalms, each of them preceded and followed by what is known as an antiphon, a sung or recited response.

What sets apart December 17th, and the six nights that follow it, are the seven antiphons used only on these nights. Each one is a name of Christ — specifically, they are Messianic titles from the book of Isaiah: Sapienta (Wisdom), Adonai (Lord), Radix (Root of Jesse), Clavis (Key of David), Oriens (Dayspring), Rex (King of the Nations), and Emmanuel.

Because each of these titles is preceded by the word “O” they are known as the “O Antiphons.”

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