Prayer Page


Advent is a godsend, encouraging us to stand back, observe, take time: time for prayer, not in the narrow sense of saying words, but in the deeper sense of spending time in God’s company, watching, waiting, listening.  Some of the words we are given to ponder during this season are found in the Advent Antiphons, meditations on verses of scripture that were sung in turn from at least the fourth century, before and after the Magnificat at Vespers, the monastic equivalent of Evensong, on the seven days leading up to Christmas.

The initial letters of the seven titles, read backwards, form a Latin acrostic, Ero cras, meaning ‘Tomorrow I shall be there.’

The antiphons allude to the promises that will be embodied in the longed-for Messiah, promises we need to be effective in our own day.  We are not Jewish people oppressed by a succession of foreign captors; many of us have never been persecuted for our faith, though we are aware that in some parts of the world that is the consequence of professing faith in Jesus Christ, just as it was when the New Testament Revelation of John was written. But we do need to be freed from oppressions that prevent peace and justice from being the established principles of our lives.  We need to be set free from the fear of death and destruction that casts its gloom over much of the world.  We need to be re-called to the great commandment to love the Lord our God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength.

These antiphons list great truths about God’s nature: wisdom; the mighty Lord of the faithful; the God of history; the one who unlocks meaning; the light banishing darkness; the king of the nations; the God who is with us – and pondering on all these will help us to recognize God alive and at large in our world.  We need to remember that it was to this world, not just to the Church that God came and comes.  And he doesn’t just come at Christmas, or even at the Last Judgement, but now.

We don’t only live in two worlds, the one that is going frantic all around us, and the one that lives by God’s values.  We operate in two time-scales; chronological time and beyond time.  The point of intersection is now. Now is the time, as the Advent collect in the Book of Common Prayer puts it, for us to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light. Now is when we have to meet God, because we have no other time.

From ‘Come Emmanuel’ by Ann Lewin. 2012.

Ann Lewin is one of today’s most popular spiritual writers and is greatly in demand as a retreat leader.  She has worked as a local tutor with students on the Ordination course based at Sarum College, Salisbury.


THE ADVENT ‘Os’ or Advent Antiphons


17 December – O Sapientia (O Wisdom) 


O Wisdom, coming forth from the mouth of the Most High,

reaching from one end of the earth to the other mightily,

and sweetly ordering all things:

Come and teach us the way of prudence.

(Isaiah 11:2-3; Wisdom 7:24-28; Ecclesiasticus 1:1-20)


18 December – O Adonai (O Lord of Lords)


O Adonai, and leader of the house of Israel,

who appeared to Moses in the fire of the burning bush

and gave him the law on Sinai:

Come and redeem us with an outstretched arm.

(Isaiah 11:4-5; Exodus 3:1-6; 20:1-17)


19 December – O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)


O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;

before you kings will shut their mouths,

to you the nations will make their prayer:

Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.

(Isaiah 11:1-10; Jeremiah 33:14-16)


20 December – O Clavis David  (O Key of David)


O Key of David and sceptre of the house of Israel,

you open and no one can shut;

you shut and no one can open:

Come and lead the prisoners from the prison house,

those that dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

(Isaiah 22:20-23; cf. Revelation 3:7)


21 December – O Oriens (O Morning Star)


O Morning Star, splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:

Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness

and the shadow of death.

(Isaiah 9:2; 60:1-2; cf. Malachi 4:2; Luke 1:78)

22 December – O Rex Gentium (O King of Nations)


O King of nations, and their desire,

the cornerstone making both one:

Come and save the human race, which you fashioned from clay.

(Isaiah 9:6; 2:4; Psalms 46, 47; Jeremiah 30:8-11a)


23 December – O Emmanuel (O ‘God with us’)


O Emmanuel, our king and lawgiver,

the hope of the nations and their Saviour:

Come and save us, O Lord our God.

(Isaiah 7:14; 61:1-3; cf. Matthew 1:18-23; Luke 4:16-21)

(from The Pilgrim Prayerbook 2nd edition by David Stancliffe 2007)


Come, thou long-expected Jesus,

born to set thy people free;

from our fears and sins release us;

let us find our rest in thee.


Charles Wesley (1707- 88)