CNP Feedback -
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
The "Feedback Box" on the CanticaNOVA Publications website has proven quite effective in promoting communications on a variety of subjects, and expressing concerns of liturgists and musicians.
From time to time, we'll compile a few of these questions or comments and put them in public view, with the hope that others with similar concerns may benefit from their content.
Q. Dear CNP:
I notice that during Year B the Advent hymn "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" is only suggested on the hymn list for the Fourth Sunday of Advent.
Is there a reason for this? Should we not be using it before then?
Cmdr. E. Manuel
A. Dear Commander:
Thank you for browsing the CanticaNOVA Publications website, in particular our Liturgical Planning Pages.
We do, indeed, reserve the hymn "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," for the last Sunday of Advent.
Here's the reasoning:
The first half of Advent is particularly focused on the second coming of Christ as our majestic Judge at the end of time.
Many hymns with this theme ("Wake, Awake," "Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending," "Creator of the Stars of Night,") are suggested on the first two Sundays.
The latter half of Advent focuses on the Nativity of Christ — his coming physically into our world as the Son of Mary.
The very last days of Advent (from December 17 to 24) are special indeed, since the poetic ancient texts called the O Antiphons are used liturgically as the Magnificat antiphons and the Gospel Verses on those days.
These are Messianic titles for Christ: O Wisdom, O Key of David, O King of the Nations … and, most familiarly, O Emmanuel.
These seven O Antiphons are the basis for the stanzas of the hymn, "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel."
If we had Liturgical Planning Pages for every day (rather than for just Sundays and feasts), we would suggest using the proper stanza of the hymn for these last days of Advent, i.e. the one that matches the day.
Since we have suggestions only for the Sundays of Advent, we've reserved this hymn for the Fourth Sunday, since it always falls within the frame of the seven O Antiphons (between December 17 and 24).
I hope this explains things.
Article written 24 November 2014