Count down the last 8 days before Christmas with this Advent calendar based on the "O Antiphons."
There exist countless Advent calendars that a family can use to count down the days until Christmas. From Lego to wine and cheese, nearly everything has been used during this special month of December.
However, one family tradition that isn’t well known is called the Antiphon House.
The origins are difficult to trace, but the tradition is based on the ancient liturgical practice in the Catholic Church of marking the final days of Advent with the chanting of the Great Antiphons.
Dom Guéranger explains in his Liturgical Yearthe symbolism of singing these verses during Evening Prayer (Vespers):
The canonical Hour of Vespers has been selected as the most appropriate time for this solemn supplication to our Savior, because, as the Church sings in one of her hymns, it was in the Evening of the world (vergente mundi vespere) that the Messias came amongst us. These Antiphons are sung at the Magnificat, to show us that the Savior, whom we expect, is to come to us by Mary.
Each antiphon (or each verse of the hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” which is the O Antiphons set to music) is recited/sung on successive days leading up to Christmas, starting on December 17 and ending on December 23. The antiphons are biblically based and each features a different title of the Messiah from the Old Testament.
The Antiphon House takes these verses and transforms them into a mini Advent Calendar.
There are many different ways to create such a calendar. For example, blogger Jessica Gordon created one using wooden blocks and printed symbols of each antiphon on each block, which would be turned around on each day.
Alternatively, Catholic Culture features an activity in which the Antiphon House is made out of paper with little windows that are opened.
Whatever version is used, the family tradition is firmly rooted in the Church’s liturgy and is a great teaching moment for children, similar to the Jesse Tree, and is a helpful tool to explain the various prophecies of the Old Testament that spoke about Jesus Christ, the Messiah.