Chanting a Christmas countdown

Lit candle seen on Advent wreath during Mass in Crypt Church at national shrine in Washington

An Advent wreath at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. The wreath, which holds four candles, is a main symbol of the Advent season, with a new candle lit each Sunday before Christmas. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis gave a plug for the “O Antiphons” in his homily today, urging people to recite these beautiful expressions of longing for the coming of the Messiah.

He said these prayers get people in the right spirit of humility, to empty their hearts of “sterile” pride, so they can be filled with God’s grace.

The  “O Antiphons” are seven prayers that are recited on the days immediately before Christmas, beginning Dec. 17. They introduce the Magnificat, or canticle of Mary, at evening prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours.

The prayers — scriptural texts just a few lines long, begin with “O” and include the desire for Christ to come.  He is addressed by a different traditional title for the Messiah on each of the seven days to connect the coming of Christ with the prophetic writings of the Old Testament.

This video offers a running playlist of the seven antiphons in Gregorian chant for each day:

December 17

O Wisdom of our God Most High, guiding creation with power and love: come to teach us the path of knowledge!

December 18 

O Leader of the House of Israel, giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai: come to rescue us with your mighty power!

December 19

O Root of Jesse’s stem, sign of God’s love for all his people: come to save us without delay!

December 20

 O Key of David, opening the gates of God’s eternal Kingdom: come and free the prisoners of darkness!

December 21

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

December 22

O King of all nations and keystone of the Church: come and save man, whom you formed from the dust!

December 23

O Emmanuel, our King and Giver of Law: come to save us, Lord our God!



Banana bark provides raw material for greeting cards crafted in Haiti


A young Haitian man shaves banana bark to be used in greeting cards. (Photo courtesy Food for the Poor)

In the hands of Haitians, dried pieces of banana bark form the words “Hope,” “Love,” “Joy,” “Peace” and “Noel” for Christmas and all-occasion cards. The card-making is a project of Food for the Poor’s banana bark program. Each year the international Christian relief organization, based in Coconut Creek, Fla., looks for fresh designs for the handcrafted cards, sales of which give poor Haitians some income. The agency has a long history of work in Haiti, and it has had the card program in place for years.

“If we don’t have the cards, we don’t have the money,” said a man named Othon, whose wife, Marcelin, has worked in the program since 1995. The couple, who has three children, spoke recently to a Food for the Poor photographer.

Crafting cards in Haiti. (Photo courtesy of Food for the Poor)

Crafting cards in Haiti. (Photo courtesy of Food for the Poor)

“This helps us pay for school and helps us to buy food and clothes,” said Marcelin. “I feel good to have this opportunity.”

A retired clinical lab director who is an artist, Patricia Carroll of Jupiter, Fla., designed the cards, offering her talent for free to help the agency. “(I) wanted to do whatever I could to help. … This is one of the best things I have done,” she said.