The First of The Special July Posts

Each Saturday in July, I am going to write a series of special posts. I want our readers to know that although the running theme will be obvious, the reason that we are writing these special posts will be a secret till August. We are very excited about what we are cooking up. There will also be special facebook posts and pictures throughout July. The tagline or secret code that ties all of these together is “#violetORblue” and we want to encourage you all to look for it this month.

Violet or Blue

In today’s post I would like to talk about The Great Antiphons of Advent. During a Mass, Church Service, Morning & Evening Prayer, or evening Vespers, these beautiful verses—which have their roots in the Scriptures—are used in place of the alleluias or are used after the Magnificat at Vespers during the last seven days of Advent: December 17th through December 23rd. Although there is the alternative to start them December 16th and use a separate antiphon for those celebrating St. Thomas’ feast on December 21st instead of July 3rd; or start on December 16th and use an antiphon O Virgo virginum as antiphon number eight.

With enough searching, it seems many church bodies today use these beautiful verses in some capacity or another. It is said that the Early Church may have used them in their services. No matter who instituted them, we can trace the usage back to at least the 8th and 9th century and it is most likely that they were used beforehand. Although the English translations vary from source to source, these are beautiful prayers which are solidly grounded in the Scriptures. The essence of these prayers is captured among all of the various translations.

These antiphons are special and ought to be distinguished as such. Many understand what is meant by the phrase “O Antiphons,” but even this shorter version can leave room for confusion if a lay person is not so well informed. An antiphon is used before and/or after a psalm and also can be used after the Magnificat. These Advent Antiphons, therefore, have a proper name: The Great Antiphons of Advent or The O Antiphons of Advent. An antiphon’s purpose is to summarize the main point of the psalm which helps make the connection between the psalm and the service on which it is chanted or sung. These Great Antiphons point the way towards Christmas and Christ. They talk about the Old and New Testaments and summarize the ties that bind everything together. They are a final push and lead us directly to our Lord’s birth; but more importantly they shed light towards the rest of the story and the greater picture.

I hope this post encourages y’all to spend some time looking at these verses. I am including this link to a document from the Baylor University. It has a nice summary and good translation. Of course, trying to translate these from the original Latin is a lot of fun as well! Thanks for reading and following along.

~Nihil Sine Deo~


A.C.A. Hall, Bishop of Vermont. “The Advent Antiphons.” Project Canterbury. June 26, 2017.

“The Great Antiphons of Advent.” Salve Maria Regina Vol. 47, Issue 150 (2007):

“The ‘O Antiphons’ of Advent.” USCCB. June 26, 2017.

Filed under: Ecclesiastical Sewing


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