One of our more familiar Advent hymns, O come, O come, Emmanuel (Hymn 56) was derived from the O Antiphons used in the Liturgy of the Hours every December 17-23, sung in conjunction with the Magnificat honoring the Blessed Mother Mary. The origin of the O Antiphons is unknown, but they date at least from the ninth century as the perfect expression of longing for the coming Redeemer.
By the ninth century sacristan’s gardens were established as a source of church flowers. The central circle of the monastery garden, containing a fountain or pool, symbolized the “O” of the Antiphon “O Radix Jesse” (O Root of Jesse), recalling Isaiah’s prophecy that the virgin birth of the Redeemer would be as the blooming of a flower.
Inspired by the sacristan’s garden, this montage is a floral symbolic study of the O Antiphons. The Iris, symbol of wisdom was selected for “O Sapientia” (O Wisdom from on high); the holly, thought to be the holiest of plants because God revealed himself as a burning holly bush, symbolizes “O Adonai” (O Lord and leader of the house of Israel); the Lenton Rose, first plant to bloom in the spring, represents “O Radix Jesse” (O Root of Jesse who stood as a standard of the people); the gladiolus, Latin for sword or liberator, illustrates “O Clavis David” (O Key of David and scepter of our home); the sunflower adorns “O Oriens (O Dayspring, splendor of eternal light); the mum, symbol of protection, is used to represent “O Rex gentium” (O long-for King of the nations); and the red rose, the symbol of perfect love, represents “O Emmanuel” (O Emmanuel, our king and law-giver). A white lily is encased in the “O” of each manuscript to simultaneously honor the purity of Mother Mary and foretell of man’s future redemption through the Resurrection.
Jan writes, "Emmanuel means 'God With Us.' It is the dearest name of Christ to me, the ultimate symbol of the incarnation, and the name of my home parish."
Parish: Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Opelika, Alabama