A Festival of Advent Lessons and Carols
The model for our Festival of Advent Lessons and Carols is taken from the service developed at Salisbury Cathedral and St. James Cathedral in Chicago. It has been adapted for our use at St. Martin in the Fields.
The Scripture passages provided serve as foils to one another – parallels from the Old and New Testaments, prophesy and fulfillment. Each scripture is preceded by an “O Antiphon”, and is followed by a Carol reflection, sung by the choir.
The O Antiphons, also known as The great Os are Magnificat antiphons used at Vespers on the last seven days of Advent in Western Christian traditions. They have been in use since the days of the early church.
They are referred to as the "O Antiphons" because the title of each one begins with the interjection "O". Each antiphon is a name of Christ, one of his attributes mentioned in Scripture. They are:
December 17: O Sapientia (O Wisdom)
December 18: O Adonai (O Lord)
December 19: O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse)
December 20: O Clavis David (O Key of David)
December 21: O Oriens (O Dayspring)
December 22: O Rex Gentium (O King of the nations)
December 23: O Emmanuel (O With Us is God)
The original Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols was first held on Christmas Eve 1918 at King’s College, Cambridge. It was planned by Eric Milner-White, who at the age of thirty-four had just been appointed Dean of King’s. He also devised their Advent Carol Service in 1934, and was a liturgical pioneer and authority during his twenty two years as Dean of York.