The O's are very old, dating as far back as the 400s A.D. -- a 1,600-year-old tradition that really speaks to their beauty and power. Each of the O's corresponds to a title of the Messiah bestowed so poetically by the Prophet Isaiah seven centuries before Jesus' birth. The seven O's (see the Wikipedia entry for the list) form a Latin acrostic referring to the Savior's imminent arrival, ERO CRAS, "Tomorrow I will come."
One of the treasures in the Mount's Special Collections is our 18th Century antiphonary (photo above), a big book o' Gregorian chant used by monks for singing the Hours. It's bound in leather and wood and printed on cotton-rag paper in Venice in 1746. Most of the Mount students have at least heard of Gregorian chant, and they are always impressed by this folio-sized tome.
The first of the seven O's begins, "O Sapientia quae exore Altissimi produiisti..."
O Wisdom from the mouth of the Most High, you fill the whole world. With strength and gentleness, you order all things: come to teach us the way of prudence.Besides the 7-day countdown to Christmas, what I love most about the O's is their 16 centuries of continuity. The translation above is courtesy of Universalis, a free online resource. You can download the O's, and the rest of the Liturgy of the Hours for your smart phone, Kindle, or other e-book reader, or pray the daily office with the rest of the Church via your web browser. Now that's continuity. I wonder what Isaiah would think.