O Emmanuel; a final advent sonnet, and a hidden message

So we come to the last of the Seven Great O Antiphons, which was sung on either side of the Magnificat on Christmas Eve, O Emmanuel, O God with us. This is the antiphon from which our lovely Advent hymn takes its name. It was also this final antiphon which revealed the secret message embedded subtly into the whole antiphon sequence. In each of these antphons we have been calling on Him to come to us, to come as Light as Key, as King, as God-with-us. Now, standing on the brink of Christmas Eve, looking back at the illuminated capital letters for each of the seven titles of Christ we would see an answer to our pleas : ERO CRAS the latin words meaning ‘Tomorrow I will come!”

O Emmanuel

O Rex

O Oriens

O Clavis

O Radix

O Adonai

O Sapientia

I have also tried in my final sonnet to look back across the other titles of Christ, but also to look forward, beyond Christmas, to the new birth for humanity and for the whole cosmos, which is promised in the birth of God in our midst.

As always you can listen to the antiphon and sonnet if you wish by pressing the play button or clicking on the poem’s title

I shall post a new sonnet for Christmas Day this coming Friday, assuming that on Christmas Eve and Christmas day itself we shall have better things than a screen to gaze at.

O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster,
exspectatio Gentium, et Salvator earum:
veni ad salvandum nos, Domine, Deus nosterO Emmanuel, our king and our lawgiver,
the hope of the nations and their Saviour:
Come and save us, O Lord our God
O come, O come, and be our God-with-us
O long-sought With-ness for a world without,
O secret seed, O hidden spring of light.
Come to us Wisdom, come unspoken Name
Come Root, and Key, and King, and holy Flame,
O quickened little wick so tightly curled,
Be folded with us into time and place,
Unfold for us the mystery of grace
And make a womb of all this wounded world.
O heart of heaven beating in the earth,
O tiny hope within our hopelessness
Come to be born, to bear us to our birth,
To touch a dying world with new-made hands
And make these rags of time our swaddling bands.


Filed under christianity, Meditation, Poems

18 responses to “O Emmanuel; a final advent sonnet, and a hidden message

  1. Elizabeth Winder Noyes

    Beautiful Malcolm. Tags of these times our swaddling bands. Christ in us constantly being reborn to be protected by the world. There’s a thought.

  2. Beautiful – and much better than the carol on which you based it.

    • malcolmguite

      You are very kind. I like the carol but I felt we needed a different and more nuanced response to the original antiphons on which it was based – hence the sonnets.

  3. Sr Lucy Brydon,

    Malcolm, thank you for the beautiful poems of the O antiphons. I have always loved them but your poems have added another dimension to what we sing here in Turvey. We had them as readings at Compline to everyone’s joy. Happy Christmas – May Emmanuel be GOD-WITHIN every single one of your life experiences. Lucy

    • malcolmguite

      Thank you do much for this sister Lucy. I am delighted to think that my lines have assisted in any way in the prayer-life of Turvey and I am very glad indeed of your prayers. I wish you and the whole community a very joyful Christmas!

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  5. Amanda

    I loved every one of the sonnets – as always – the bleak honesty of no virtue in the virtual – so true – to the flaming hope for our future, encompassed in ‘heart of heaven beating in the earth’ – thank you for the sung antiphons too and especially your fabulous reading aloud of the sonnets – Amanda G

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  11. Dr Rick Nelms

    Dear Malcolm, I have found so much wisdom and love in your blog entries throughout Advent and just wanted to say thank you. I also enjoyed the Radio 4 broadcast “Christmas on the edge” in which you very clearly linked the coming of the baby Jesus with the crucifixion, the empty tomb and the gift of resurrection and wanted to say thank you for that too. I received ‘Sounding the Seasons’ for Christmas and it is wonderful!

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