O Come, Emmanuel

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

As Advent comes to a close in a couple of days, the Church calls all the Faithful to rejoice in the Good News of the Incarnation.

Of course, this time of rejoicing would not be complete without prayer and beautiful music – nothing too festive yet; Christmas Day is the day for the festivities.

Probably the greatest of all the Advent songs is “O Come, O Come Emmanuel“, which is a translation of the Latin “Veni, Veni Emmanuel”.  This song is clearly intended to be sung in the Advent season, at which time we wait in joyful hope of our Savior.  The very title implies a longing, a waiting for – “O come, O come”. 

“Emmanuel” is the name for Jesus, according to the Archangel Gabriel (Matt 1:23), and it means “God With Us.”  This is the fulfillment of the prophesy of Isaiah (7:14).

The song goes back to the Ninth Century, and it results from several “O Antiphons” that were sung at vespers.  In our Adoremus Hymnal at church, each of the stanzas have a date written before them.  A great way to sing the song is to wait to sing a particular stanza until the day it is called for.  If you start on Des. 17, by the time Dec. 23 gets here, you’ll be singing all 7 stanzas.

Normally, the verse we all know – “and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here” – should be sung on the last day of the octave. 

The website Preces-Latinae.org has a very cool note about the Latin verses of the song (It also has the Latin/English for all stanzas.):

 It is interesting to note that the initial [LATIN] words of the actual antiphons in reverse order form an acrostic: O Emmanuel, O Rex, O Oriens, O Clavis, O Radix (“virgula” in the hymn), O Adonai, O Sapientia. ERO CRAS can be loosely translated as “I will be there tomorrow”. That is a fitting message indeed since Christ’s birth falls on the following day.

There are many great versions of the song.  On YouTube, the best version that I could find (or, at least, the one I like best) is sung by Enya.  It starts in English, but includes the Latin verses.  The clip is not a VIDEO of her singing; it is just a PHOTO of her. 

I know that Enya is very New Age-ish, but she’s got a tremendously lovely voice – very evocative and moody.  According to the Wikipedia article, she describes herself as Catholic.  Although no citation is given, it also says that she played Christmas events in Rome in the presence of Pope John Paul II.

Anyway, the music is great.  So, press play, and crank up the speakers.

Veni, Veni Emanuel

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Veni, veni Emanuel! O Come, O Come Emmanuel
Captivum solve Israel! And ransom captive Israel
Qui gemit in exilio, That mourns in lonely exile here
Privatus Dei Filio. Until the Son of God appear

Refrain Gaude, gaude, Emanuel Rejoice, Rejoice, Emmanuel
Nascetur pro te, Israel. Is born to thee, O Israel

Veni, O Sapientia, O Come, Thou Wisdom, from on high
quae hic disponis omnia, and order all things far and nigh;
veni, viam prudentiae Tous the path of knowledge show,
ut doceas et gloriae. and teach us in her ways to go.


Veni, veni Adonai! O come, o come, Thou Lord of might,
Qui populo in Sinai who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height
Legem dedisti vertice, in ancient times did give the law,
In Maiestate gloriae. in cloud, and majesty, and awe.


Other stanzas

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