Brightest of the Eternal Light

Daily Reading for December 21 • St. Thomas the Apostle

O Oriens

O Orient, Brightest of the Eternal Light,

and Sun of Righteousness:

Come and lighten them that sit in darkness,

and in the shadow of death.

From The Greater Antiphons At Evensong During Eight Days Before Christmas from the Salisbury Antiphonary, edited by John Mason Neale and Thomas Helmore, in Hymnal Noted: Parts I and II (London: Novello, 1856).

O Jesus, divine Sun!

You are coming to snatch us from eternal night,

blessed for ever be your infinite goodness!

But you put our faith to the test, before showing yourself in all your brightness.

You hide your rays, until the time decreed by your heavenly Father comes,

in which all your beauty will break upon the world.

You are traversing Judea; you are near Jerusalem;

the journey of Mary and Joseph is nigh its term.

Crowds of men pass or meet you on the road,

each one hurrying to his native town, there to be enrolled, as the edict commands.

Not one of all these suspects that you, O divine Orient,are so near him.

They see your Mother Mary, and they see nothing in her above the rest of women;

or if they are impressed by the majesty and incomparable modesty of this august Queen,

it is but a vague feeling of surprise at there being such dignity in one so poor as she is;

and they soon forget her again.

If the Mother is thus an object of indifference to them,

it is not to be expected that they will give even so much as a thought to her Child,

that is not yet born.

And yet this Child is yourself, O Sun of justice!

Oh! increase our faith, but increase, too, our love.

If these men loved Thee, O Redeemer of mankind,

you would give them the grace to feel your presence.

Their eyes, indeed, would not yet see you,

but their hearts, at least, would burn within them,

they would long for your coming, and would hasten it by their prayers and sighs.

Dearest Jesus! who thus traverses the world you have created,

and who forces not the homage of your creatures,

we wish to keep near you during the rest of this your journey:

we kiss the footsteps of her that carries you in her womb;

we will not leave you, until we arrive together with you at Bethlehem,

that house of bread, where, at last, our eyes will see you,

O splendour of eternal light, our Lord and our God!

From The Liturgical Year, volume 1, Advent by Abbott Prosper Louis Paschal Guéranger, O.S.B. (Westminster, Md.: The Newman Press, 1948). Translation by Dom Laurence Shepherd, O.S.B., ca. 1867. Text lightly modernized.

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