O Come, O Come, Emmanuel


Behold the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel. ~Matthew 1:23

The origins of this plaintive carol date to medieval times. In the 800's, a series of Latin hymns were sung each day during Christmas Vespers from December 17 to 23. Each of these hymns began with the word "O," and were called the "Great" or "O" Antiphons (the word antiphon meaning psalm or anthem). These hymns were apparently restructured into verse form in the 1100's, and finally published in Latin in 1710. In the

mid 1800's, they were discovered by an English minister named John Mason Neale, who wove together segments of them to produce the first draft of "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," which was published in 1851. Neale's original version said, "Draw Nigh, Draw Nigh, Emmanuel."

Neale is a man worth knowing. He was born in London on January 24, 1818, the son of an evangelical Anglican clergyman. He attended Cambridge University and proved to be a brilliant student and prize-winning poet. While there, Neale was influenced by the Oxford Movement and became attracted to Roman Catholicism. In 1841, he was ordained into the Anglican ministry; but his poor health and Catholic leanings prevented him from gaining a parish ministry.

He was appointed instead as the director of Sackville College, a home for old men. (Sackville College, started by Robert Sackville, Earl of Dorset, in the early 1600's as a home for the elderly, is still going strong today in East Grinstead, Sussex.) This was the perfect job for Neale, for he was a compassionate man with a great heart for the needy, but he was also a scholar needing time for research and writing.

As a high church traditionalist, Neale disliked the hymns of Isaac Watts and longed to return Christianity to the liturgical dignity of church history. He was an outspoken advocate of returning church buildings to their former glory. He campaigned, for example, against certain types of stoves that spoiled the tastefulness and charm of English churches. He also worked hard to translate ancient Greek and Latin hymns into English.

In today's hymnals, we find Neale and Watts side-by-side, the old differences having been forgotten. We owe a debt of gratitude to John Mason Neale every time we sing one of his Christmas carols: "Good King Wenceslas," "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," "Good Christian Men Rejoice," and his Palm Sunday hymn, "All Glory, Laud, and Honor."


O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns the lonely exile here, Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel, Shall come to thee, O Israel!

O Come, thou Wisdom from on high, Who orderest all things mightily;

To us the path of knowledge show And teach us in her ways to go.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel, Shall come to thee, O Israel!

O Come Desire of nations, Bind all peoples in one heart and mind.

From dust Thou brought us forth to life; Deliver us from earthly strife.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel, Shall come to thee, O Israel!

O come, thou Day-spring, come and cheer. Our spirits by Thine advent here;

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, And death's dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel, Shall come to thee, O Israel!

Excerpt above from: Then Sings My Soul, Book Two


O Come, O Come, Emmanuel - Enya



Sackville College is a Jacobean almshouse founded by Robert Sachville in 1609..........


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