Most Catholics are familiar with the seven O Antiphons sung since ancient times at Vespers, from 17-23 December:
- Dec 17: O Sapientia (“O Wisdom”)
- Dec 18: O Adonai (“O Lord”)
- Dec 19: O Radix Jesse (“O Root of Jesse”)
- Dec 20: O Clavis David (“O Key of David”)
- Dec 21: O Oriens (“O Dawn of the East”)
- Dec 22: O Rex Gentium (“O King of the Nations”)
- Dec 23: O Emmanuel (“O God With Us”)
In medieval England, the practice was to bring all of these antiphons forward one day in the calendar, so, singing O Sapientia on 16 December (if you look at the Kalendar in a copy of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, you will notice this listing at the relevant date, Cranmer having copied it over from the medieval English Sarum Use). On the final day before Christmas Eve, 23 December, an eighth antiphon to the Blessed Virgin Mary was added:
O Virgo virginum, quomodo fiet istud?
Quia nec primam similem visa es nec habere sequentem.
Filiae Jerusalem, quid me admiramini?
Divinum est mysterium hoc quod cernitis.
(“O Virgin of virgins, how shall this be?
For neither before you, nor after you, shall there be any like you.
Daughters of Jerusalem, why marvel at me?
That which you behold is a divine mystery.”)
Watch/listen below (the title of the video gets the date wrong, though the singing is spot-on):