The Advent/Christmas season is rich in symbolism and tradition. I have experienced many Advents in the course of my monastic life, and I never seem to tire of its customs and rituals. During the octave before Christmas Eve, a time that is called the “Golden Nights,” the seven “O Antiphons” are sung during the Magnificat at Evening Prayer. Each antiphon begins with “O” and addresses Jesus with a unique title that comes from the prophecies of Isaiah and Micah.
Centuries ago the Benedictine monks arranged these antiphons with a definite purpose in mind. On Dec. 24 the monk would start with the last title and take the first letter of each one and read the Latin words “Ero Cras,” meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come.” Therefore, the Lord Jesus, whose coming we have prepared for during Advent, and whom we have addressed in these seven Messianic titles, now assures us he will soon be here. These “O Antiphons” not only bring intensity to our Advent preparation, they also bring it to a joyful conclusion.
To my great surprise, I could not find much art expressing the beauty and meaning of these antiphons from the Liturgy of the Hours. So I decided to create my own. I used the medium of colored pencils because I find that the slow and subtle layering of color lends itself to mediation. I then enhanced each drawing digitally.
My hope is that these images might serve to take this tradition from within the walls of the monastery and capture the imagination of the faithful.
FATHER VINCENT DE PAUL CROSBY, OSB, is a monk, priest and artist at St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. To see his work, visit fabricart.net.
O Sapientia (Dec. 17)
“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.”
O Adonai (Dec. 18)
“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.”
O Radix Jesse (Dec. 19)
“O Root 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.”
O Clavis David (Dec. 20)
“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.”
O Oriens (Dec. 21)
“O Rising Sun, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.”
O Rex Gentium (Dec. 22)
“O King of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart; O Keystone of the mighty arch of man, come and save thecreature you fashioned from the dust.”
O Emmanuel (Dec. 23)
“O Emmanuel, king and lawgiver, desire of the nations, Savior of all people, come and set us free, Lord our God.”