Liturgically appropriate for "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel" to be sung on the First & Second Sundays of Advent?

I had a discussion with a friend on the hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”. It’s one of the Church’s oldest venerable hymns, and it’s very beautiful. Now, the subject came up when I said that I would love to hear it all the Sundays of Advent. He told me; however, that it wasn’t liturgically appropriate to sing the hymn on the First and Second Sundays of Advent, because the hymn includes the O Antiphons, which begin on December 17 and end on December 23. Thus, it makes the hymn liturgically correct to sing it beginning the Third Sunday of Advent (this year December 19), because we will be in the O Antiphons. Now, I don’t really know if his viewpoint is correct. I mean, the O Antiphon point is correct, obviously, but it’s still a hymn regarding the coming of the Son of God, which makes it a good Advent hymn, since we are in preparation for Christmas - Christ’s birth. So, why would it, and would it for that matter be liturgically inappropriate to sing it on the First and Second Sundays of Advent?

Frankly, I have no idea whether it is liturgically correct to sing it before the 17th of December; we have always sung it throughout Advent. In its original Latin form, it was, indeed, known as a song of the “Great Antiphons”. This link provides a wealth of information, which I find quite interesting:

I’m sure someone will chime in with the correct answer.

I think it is liturgically appropriate (or not inappropriate) during all of Advent. Of course, it is *especially *appropriate after Dec. 17.

There are other hymns that could be sung those first two weeks instead. “O Come, Divine Messiah”, “People, Look East” are two that I like quite a lot.

There are also hymns that could be sung based on what the proper Introit for those Sundays are. (Or, gasp, the Introits themselves could be sung!)

And if these beautiful hymns are going to be sung… please, sing all the verses. You don’t compose a song with seven verses with the expectation that only two will ever be sung! (Granted, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” was not composed as a SINGLE hymn, but is seven mini-hymns put together… but still!)

As there is no list of approved and disapproved hymns at any time, I am highly skeptical of this claim. I would be curious the documentation of this idea. If it is just an opinion, then of course, it is a reasonable opinion that it is inappropriate for the reason given. However, it is just as reasonable to start week one as a way of deliniating the change of liturgical season.

So, is there any Church documentation on this issue?

The “O” antiphons are in the context of the Liturgy of the Hours, not the Mass.

I don’t believe the hymn O Come O Come Emmanuel was written in the context of the Liturgy of the Hours, so saying it shouldn’t be sung at Mass before December 19 seems to be making a connection to the hymn that never existed.


In a church that has appropriated everything from stalwart protestant hymns to trendy theo-babble ditties, I cannot understand why anyone would object to singing a well-known, thematically appropriate, and at least aesthetically unobjectionable hymn because it would be the “wrong” Sunday of Advent. Current Catholic practice does not come anywhere near insisting on the kinds of strict standards for propers that would justify such an objection. Aside from that, the hymn is a paraphrase of the “O” antiphons, which vitiates its strict connection with a specific liturgical context, which would not be the Mass to begin with (they are in fact antiphons for Vespers).

Slightly diverting from the topic, but how about a song like “Find Us Ready, Lord” (OCP?) for the first 2-3 weeks of Advent instead? The verses are particularly germane.

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