O Oriens

Daily Reading for December 20

O Day-Spring, Brightness of Light everlasting, and Sun of Righteousness: Come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.

There can be few words of such universal significance as ‘light’. It is both a common metaphor and a potent religious symbol. One of the most beautiful prayers in the Hindu scriptures is ‘Lead me from the unreal to the real, lead me from darkness to light, lead me from death to immortality’, words which have been incorporated into the baptismal liturgy of the Church of South India. The Hindu festival of lights, Diwali, which, incidentally, usually falls quite close to Advent, celebrates the hope of returning light when the days are getting shorter. Muslims affirm ‘God is the light of the heavens and earth’ (Qur’an 24:35). The religion of ancient Persia, Zoroastrianism, calls God ‘Ahura Mazda’, Wise Lord and Lord of Light, and the sacred, ever burning fire symbolizes the eternal divine light. The first specific thing which God created, according to the Genesis account, was light (Genesis 1:3).

The universal idea of light as closely related to God finds its fulfillment in the Jewish and Christian scriptures and preeminently in Christ, the light of the world. The Antiphon O Oriens brings out a special aspect of the light of Christ by its use of the word Oriens, rising sun, day-spring, dawn. It is new light, light after darkness, light which has conquered darkness. In some ways the most welcome light of all is the dawn which brings the long, weary night to an end. Jesus is the dawn which we long for above all things. He is the new light that fills us with hope, putting to flight the darkness of despair. The new light also guides us when we have been floundering in the darkness of ignorance, uncertainty and indecision by leading us into the way of peace, the wholeness of communion with God.

From O Come Emmanuel: Scripture Verses for Advent Worship by William Marshall. Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. www.morehousepublishing.com

O Day-Spring,

dawn of day,

bright clearness of the light:

Sometimes, in the very early morning,

I watch for your coming

to unravel the darkness,

to unhide the unknown,

to unmask the shapes and shadows of the night;

And in your sun-brilliant shining

to discover the secrets of righteousness and justice,

to discern and learn that where you are,

there is no shadow,

no darkness,

no death.

From Hasten the Kingdom: Praying the O Antiphons of Advent by Mary Winifred, C.A. (Liturgical Press, 1996).

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