Gaudete Sunday & O Antiphons

Today the Church celebrates the third Sunday of Advent, known as Gaudete Sunday because of the first word “Rejoice” in the entrance antiphon of Sunday’s Liturgy. The vestments worn by the priest are the color rose. The third candle of the Advent wreath is also rose. Both are reminders that Christ’s coming is very soon; we are nearing the end of Advent, and we can hardly contain our joy.


The “O” Antiphons are the final gift of the liturgy in preparing for Christmas. From December 17 to December 23 we have seven antiphons that intensely express the long years of waiting for the Messiah. The antiphons express the impatience for Christ to come. They travel through the history of redemption announcing “ our Teacher, our Redeemer, our Liberator, our Guide, our Enlightener and our Savior.”


The antiphons themselves are part of Evening Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours. The liturgy of the Mass hints at the O Antiphons, including excerpts at the Alleluia verse and other antiphons. Today the O Antiphons are most familiar to us in the hymn "O come, O come Emmanuel".  Each verse of the hymn parallels one of the antiphons.

December 17

O Wisdom (O Sapientia)

Sirach 24:3; Wisdom 8:1


O Wisdom, O holy Word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care. Come and show your people the way to salvation.


At God’s word, creation was formed; the Word issued from the mouth of God, the Son, came to earth; we ask prudence to keep on the paths of wisdom to come to His Kingdom.

December 19

O Root of Jesse (O Radix Jesse)

Isaiah 52:13, 15; 53:2


O Flower of Jesse’s stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; kings stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.


Jesse’s tree was cut down to the root, with only the stump remaining. Jesus revitalizes that root. He is the Vine and the Branches, of which requires pruning until Parousia.

December 21

O Radiant Dawn (O Oriens)

Isaiah 9:1; Malachi 3:20; 2 Peter 1:19


O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.


The prophets begged for deliverance from the darkness of death, which Jesus accomplished at His resurrection as the new Rising Sun. At Parousia this Light of the World will dispel any remaining sin and darkness.

December 18

O Lord and Ruler (O Adonai)

Exodus 3:2; Exodus 6:6


O sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.


God fulfilled His promises and redeemed the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt, and also unveiled the Law at Sinai; Jesus as Lord redeems mankind from the bondage of sin and bestows the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Parousia is often seen as a fulness of Pentecost.

December 20

O Key of David (O Clavis David)

Isaiah 22:22; Revelation 3:7


O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel controlling at your will the gate of heaven: come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.


Paradise was closed by the sin of Adam, but Jesus re-opens it with His Redemption. At the end of time there will be no more sin or obstructions to the Kingdom of God.

December 22

O King of the Nations (O Rex Gentium)

Isaiah 28:16; Ephesians 2:14


O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.


Israel in exile longed for the Kingdom of God; Jesus, Desire of Nations, extends this Kingdom to all peoples, Jews and Gentiles alike. At Parousia Jesus will draw all things to Himself and His Kingdom will be fulfilled.

December 23

O Emmanuel

Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 33:2


O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.


The sacred name revealed to Israel of Who was to come was fulfilled as Jesus, Emmanuel, God-with-us, with His enduring presence. This is the final Scriptural image of the apocalyptic vision in Revelation, seeking the ultimate promise of the Emmanuel at Parousia: “Surely I am coming soon. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).

The essence of the O Antiphons is that they are a gift of the Liturgy and the Word of God and beg for quiet contemplation. The O Antiphons fall at the latter half of Advent, the time that points to the interior preparation and meditation that we should be trying to bring to our spiritual lives. Instead of unpacking them all at once, the antiphons are gifts to slowly unpack and contemplate. We can be like Mary, pondering these words in our hearts.


This week spend some time looking up the Scriptural passages upon which the antiphons are based and reflect on the longing for Christ in your own heart.


Resources from:

Catholic Culture;