The “Oh Antiphons,” seven short verses prayed on the seven days before Christmas, grow out of our bones, our blood, out of the depths of the human heart. Beginning with “Oh Wisdom” on December 17 and ending with “Oh King” on December 23, these images are as old as the awakening of human life on earth, which may be why they have the power to move us so deeply. To enrich your last week of Advent, here is my own version of these prayers, combining several old translations. This version is meant to be prayed aloud by a chorus of at least two voices, but you may also pray it alone. In addition to the seven traditional prayers, I include “Christ the Tiger” and “Christ the Lightning-Dynamite,” inspired by T.S. Eliot and Thomas Merton. You may want to write your own antiphons, based on your own experience.
For a deeper look at the traditional “Oh Antiphons” and how they relate to the mystics’ “oh” of ecstasy, the “praise-names” of the African Bushmen, the “primordial words” of theologian Karl Rahner, the Jewish-Christian scriptures, and even American musical-comedy, see Chapter 3 of our Christmas anthology, Season of Glad Songs. We are grateful to our friend Deborah Dyer for her lovely artwork.