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O Come, O Come Emmanuel

The hymn ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel‘ is the most popular Advent hymn, It dates back to more than 1500 years and its author is unknown, It was translated into English by John Mason Neale. All the verses begin with an antiphon, a short line to be sung before and after each psalm. Each antiphon begins with the letter ‘O’ and they are known as “the O antiphons.” In churches that follow the catholic traditions these antiphons are used at Evening Prayer and Mass the last week of Advent, one for each day.

English: John Mason Neale

English: John Mason Neale (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The antiphons are based on Isaiah: Isaiah 7:14: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Immanuel is Hebrew for “God with us.” The “Rod of Jesse” refers to Isaiah 11:1: “There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse.” Jesse was the father of David, second kind of Isreal. “Day-Spring” comes from Zacharias, father of John the Baptist, in Luke 1:78: “The dayspring from on high has visited us.” “Thou Key of David” is in Isaiah 22:22: “The key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder,” which in turn refers to Isaiah 9:6, “The government shall be upon His shoulder.” Traditionally, the hymn is sung daily from the Third Sunday of Advent.

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