Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Great O Antiphons, The Golden Nights


Ever since our oldest children were very little, we have been implementing an old monastic custom in our home by providing special treats, representing each of the "O Antiphons" on the days leading up to Christmas. The O Antiphon prayers begin on December 17th and end on the 23rd, which is the last Vespers of Advent, since the evening prayer on the 24th is the Vigil of Christmas.
The Benedictine monks arranged these antiphons with a definite purpose. If one starts with the last title and takes the first letter of each one - Emmanuel, Rex, Oriens, Clavis, Radix, Adonai, Sapientia - the Latin words ero cras are formed, meaning, “Tomorrow, I will come.” Therefore, the Lord Jesus, whose coming we have prepared for in Advent and whom we have addressed in these seven Messianic titles, now speaks to us, “Tomorrow, I will come.” So the “O Antiphons” not only bring intensity to our Advent preparation, but bring it to a joyful conclusion.
Each night, following our family rosary, we pray the O Antiphon for the day, sing O Come, O Come Emmanuel, which was inspired by this ancient tradition, and then give the children a special treat.

The "treats" have varied from year to year. Some years it has been little gifts or activities for the family, some years it is all food related, and some years it is a mix of both, depending on our schedule and budget. Sometimes the treats are a bit of a stretch, but my goal is try and find gifts that will either help increase our faith (Catechism books, holy family, saints, prayer, etc) or encourage family time (games, puzzles, going to look at Christmas lights, etc). You can find some of our past O Antiphon treats by scrolling through the archives and visiting Catholic Cuisine.



This afternoon the girls and I also made some simple candies for each day. I posted more pictures along with all the details here: O Antiphon Chocolate Coins



Our family loves this tradition. It is such a fun way to teach the children about these beautiful prayers of the church and also increase their excitement as Christmas gets closer.  Oh, and since we have seven children now, they each get to unwrap one of the gifts!


In addition to the Chocolate Coins, here is the list of this year's treats for the O Antiphons, the Golden Nights:


.: December 17th :.
O Wisdom that comest out of the mouth of the Most High, that reachest from one end to another, and orderest all things mightily and sweetly, come to teach us the way of prudence!


O Sapientia (O Wisdom) - A Pictorial Catechism

Since the symbol for wisdom is a book, I usually choose a new Catholic book for our family.

This year I ordered A Pictorial Catechism, a brand new release from St. Augustine Academy Press!

"Despite its object “to inculcate the doctrines of Romanism” and its hearty recommendation by Cardinal Wiseman, even the London Art Journal in May 1863--amidst sidehand comments that its texts “differ from those in our authorized Bible”--saw fit to recommend this Pictorial Catechism for its “One hundred and twelve wood engravings, well executed, after the original designs of a distinguished artist of the Dusseldorf school.”

No such faint praise was to be heard from the Catholic world, however, as this was the first book of its kind to combine both solid catechism and the finest artwork with an affordable price. The Apostle’s Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Commandments of the Church, Sin, Virtue, the Sacraments and Prayer are all brought to life with illustrations and quotes from Scripture pertaining to the precepts being taught.

We have lovingly restored these engravings and have improved the original layout of the book, grouping the subjects into clearly demarcated sections. The table of contents displays the tenets to be learned, while an index helps the reader find images in chronological order as they are found in the Bible.

Best of all, the engravings make perfect coloring pages for children."




(Note: One of our older boys unwrapped this book this evening and really enjoyed looking through it with some of his siblings. We really love that the book includes scripture passages for each topic! The book is filled with beautiful images, however some of them are definitely scary. I'll be picking and choosing which pages to share with our little ones.) 

In the past those books have included this illustrated book of saintsAround the Year: Once Upon a Time Saints, the beautiful A Catholic Child's Picture DictionaryNovena: The Power of Prayer, new children's prayer books for Mass, a craft kit to make Christmas Bookmarks, and this new Catholic Trivia game.


.: December 18th :.
O Adonai, and Ruler of the house of Israel, Who didst appear unto Moses in the burning bush, and gavest him the law in Sinai, come to redeem us with an outstretched arm!


O Adonai (O Lord) - Stained Glass Holy Night and Forest Nativity

This year, since December 18th is our LAST DAY of school before our two week Christmas break and we will finally have some breathing room in our schedule (at least after three hockey games and a birthday on Saturday!), I decided to give the family one of the two new puzzles I purchased for this year. I ended up wrapping up the Forest Nativity Shaped Puzzle (Sean picked this one out!) and will save the Stained Glass Holy Night for sometime during the Christmas season.

In the past we would emphasize the word "house" in this Antiphon, and have made our Gingerbread Houses or Gingerbread Cookies on this night.  Now that we have two birthdays this week (and two birthday cakes to bake and decorate!) we usually wait until Christmas Eve, or sometime during the 12 Days of Christmas to decorated Gingerbread Houses. We have given the kids this Gingerbread House Cookie Cutter, and one year I totally stretched it and choose the Little House on the Prairie DVD. We have also roasted marshmallows over a fire, drawing from the reference to "Moses in the burning bush." Last year the children baked and decorated cookies using this cute 3-D Mini Gingerbread House Cookie Cutter made by Sweet Creations.


.: December 19th :.
O Root of Jesse, which standest for an ensign of the people, at Whom the kings shall shut their mouths, Whom the Gentiles shall seek, come to deliver us, do not tarry.


O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse) - "My Family

Oohhh, I am so excited about this darling personalized "My Family" set from Naturally Catholic. I considered giving this to Bud as one of his birthday gifts, in addition to the awesome Pope and Swiss Guard Set we ordered for him, but I really wanted it to be for the whole family... I decided to try and incorporate it into the O Antiphon on his birthday - O Radix Jesse.  Root of Jesse... Family Tree... My Family... It works, don't you think?  Naturally Catholic used our 4th of July family picture at the Grand Tetons for inspiration. 

Since the birthday boy has requested an "Olaf" party theme, I'll have to make sure to include some "root" vegetables in the menu once again - perhaps another Carrot Cake decorated with Olaf instead of a Barn

We also purchase our Christmas Poinsettia on this day. Other past treats and recipes have included: 12 Red Glitter Poinsettia OrnamentsMiracle of the PoinsettiaThe Miracle of the First Poinsettia, baked Poinsettia Cupcakes, Hearty Beef Stew, and Old Fashioned Root Beer Drops.


.: December 20th :.
O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel, that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth, come to liberate the prisoner from the prison, and them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.


O Clavis David (O Key of David) - Tiny Saints Key Hooks & The Saints are Watching Over Me

Since this is initially a monastic tradition, and on this night, the monk in charge of the wine cellar would provide a special bottle of wine. We usually always serve a special drink with dinner. Sometimes I also serve a Key Lime Pie as well. One year I purchased a couple key hook rails from Target to use to hang our Rosaries (you can see them in our home in this post), another year we gave the children this Key Puzzle/Brainteaser, and last year it was tickets (the Key!) to A Christmas Carol at the theatre.

This year, in addition to a special drink with dinner, I picked out some Tiny Saints Key Hooks plus a copy of the Tiny Saints board book for our youngest.  I had actually planned to put these in their stockings but they are perfect for this O Antiphon.


.: December 21st :.
O Dayspring, Brightness of the everlasting light, Son of justice, come to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death!



O Oriens (O Dayspring) - Christmas Candles from The Cloister Shoppe

Our favorite tradition for this O Antiphon is to pile in the car after dinner with hot cocoa and drive around to look at all the Christmas lights. In the past we have also given the children this set of sun blocks, decorated our own house or tree with Christmas lights, enjoyed "O Dayspring Ice Cream," added the Kurt Adler 10-Light Candle with Gold Dish Light Set to our Christmas Tree, or decorated our Christmas Candle using a tiny wax baby Jesus I purchased years ago along with Stockmar Gold Decorating Beeswax.

Back when I ordered this year's Advent Candles, I ordered additional candles from the cloister as well. I ended up wrapping the Christmas Hearth candle for this O Antiphon and will save the Three Kings candle for Epiphany!


.: December 22nd :.
O King of the Gentiles, yea, and desire thereof! O Corner-stone, that makest of two one, come to save man, whom Thou hast made out of the dust of the earth!


O Rex Gentium (O King of the Gentiles) - Nativity Puzzle Flipzles

With the 1,000 piece puzzles for all the big kids (and Dad & Mom!), I ended up ordering this Nativity puzzle for the little ones. I love that you can flip the puzzle pieces over for a complete nativity scene!

(Note: The Nativity Flipzles is out of stock at the online website I purchased ours from, and Amazon doesn't seem to carry the Nativity Puzzle, just some of the other versions, but you can find it at a discount at Rainbow Resource.)

Some past ideas... One year I ordered one of the beautiful sets of Three Kings Gifts! Every Christmas the kids put together a Christmas Play for us and this set has been such a beautiful addition to their other creative props! Other years we have made Crowns, added a "King" puppet to our puppet collection, baked a Crown Cake and/or Cookies, added the King of the Golden City CD to our collection, and assembled the Three Kings Puzzle and this beautiful Stained Glass Nativity Puzzle.


.: December 23rd :.
O Emmanuel, our King and our Law-giver, Longing of the Gentiles, yea, and salvation thereof, come to save us, O Lord our God!



O Emmanuel (O With Us is God) - A Child is Born

The nativity set from Naturally Catholic will make another inspiring addition to our collection of nativities for children.

In the past we have given special Holy Cards or Coloring Books, including the beautiful Eucharistic Adoration: With Saints And Symbols Of The Eucharist Coloring book, this 500-Piece Stained Glass Jigsaw Puzzle, added various Children's Nativity Sets to our collection, made a Chocolate Nativity Scene, and received the Holy Family Puzzle with a lovely embroidered Mass bag from Catholic Embroidery.


.: Christmas Eve :. 


Bayberry Christmas Eve Candle from The Cloister Shoppe




Last year we introduced our children to the Polish tradition of Oplatki Wafers and are continuing that tradition in our own home again this Christmas Eve:

On Christmas Eve the Polish people celebrate a traditional vigil supper called "Wigilia" which means "to await". The children of the family look for the appearance of the first star at dusk and then to begin the meal members of the family break up pieces of Oplatki and give them to each other with a blessing. Then the actual supper begins. (Read more at Aquinas and More.)

I recommend this set from Aquinas and More. I have also ordered this set (with greeting cards to give to extended family) from the large selection of Oplatki Wafers over at Amazon.



If you are looking for any last minute gift ideas, you can find my list of Christmas Gift Ideas & Stocking Stuffers here