- Written by Tom Miles Tom Miles
- Created: 27 November 2010 27 November 2010
Ero cras is a Latin phrase that means “Tomorrow, I will come.” What a perfect statement for Advent! “Tomorrow” tells us to be watchful, for we don’t know when Jesus will return. Are we ready? “I will come” sums up the reason for our Advent hope. There is no doubt, no equivocation: Jesus is coming!
The prophets of the Old Testament understood this promise. They longed for the Messiah who would finally fulfill God’s plan of salvation, and called Him by many names even centuries before His birth. Seven of these names are the basis of a set of congregation responses, the “O Antiphons.” Early Christians would speak one of the verses at each daily worship service in the week before Christmas. We still use these texts in the Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”
proceeding from the mouth of the Most High,
pervading and permeating all creation,
mightily ordering all things:
Come and teach us the way of prudence.
The first verse begins O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti: “O Wisdom, proceeding from the mouth of the Most High.” Jesus, the Word of God, pervades and permeates all creation. The ancient prophet said, “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding.” (Isaiah 11:2–3) We ask the Wisdom of God to teach us the way of prudence.
O Adonai and ruler of the house of Israel,
who appeared to Moses in the burning bush
and gave him the law on Sinai:
Come with a outstretched arm and redeem us.
Next is O Adonia, et Dux domus Israel, a prayer to Adonai (which means “The Lord Provides”), the ruler of the house of Israel. We ask the same Lord who gave the law to Moses to return and redeem us “with an outstretched arm,” remembering how Isaiah 33:22 describes Jesus as our judge, lawgiver, king and the one who will save us.
O Root of Jesse,
standing as an ensign before the peoples,
before whom all kings are mute,
to whom the nations will do homage:
Come quickly to deliver us.
O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, begins the next verse. “O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples.” This name for Jesus comes from Isaiah 11:1, “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse.” Jesus was born into the family of King David, whose father was Jesse. This royal lineage prompts us to proclaim Jesus as the great King of kings and to ask Him to “Come quickly to deliver us.”
O Key of David and scepter of the house of Israel,
you open and no one can close,
You close and no one can open:
Come and rescue the prisoners who are in darkness and the shadow of death.
Isaiah 22:22 says, “I will place on His shoulder the key to the house of David; what He opens no one can shut, and what He shuts no one can open.” Once again, we see Jesus as the heir of David’s kingdom. We also know that Jesus holds the keys to heaven. In the verse O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel, “O Key of David and scepter of the house of Israel,” we ask Him to “Come and rescue the prisoners who are in darkness and the shadow of death.”
splendor of light everlasting:
Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
We know that “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.” (Isaiah 9:2) We cry out to Jesus to enlighten we “who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” in the verse O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, “O Dayspring (Morning Star), splendor of light everlasting.”
O King of the Nations,
the ruler they long for,
the cornerstone uniting all people:
Come and save us all, whom You formed out of clay.
Nearing the end of the seven-part antiphon, we say O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, “O King of the Nations, the ruler they long for.” We remember once again that God formed us out of clay, and pray that Jesus will “Come and save us all.”
our king and our Lord,
the anointed for the nations and their Savior:
Come and save us, O Lord our God.
The first verse that we sing in “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is actually the last of the O Antiphons, and was originally intended for the last day of Advent: O Emmanuel, rex et legifer noster, “O God With Us, our king and lawgiver.” This title comes from Isaiah 7:14: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call Him Emmanuel.”
Did you know that the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” is a sort of acrostic? Go back and note the first letter of each Latin name for Jesus. Emmanuel. Rex Gentium. Oriens. Clavis David. Radix Jesse. Adonai. Sapientia. E-R-O-C-R-A-S. That spells out Ero Cras! “Tomorrow, I”—our Lord, Jesus Christ, God With Us, King of the Nations, Morning Star, Key of David, Root of Jesse, The Lord Provides, Wisdom—“will come.” Let this simple phrase, and the Lord in whose name the promise is made, be your joy this Advent season!