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O Oriens

Hayley Barnes

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Radiant Dawn,
splendour of eternal light, sun of justice:
shine on those lost in the darkness of death!

Light, Liturgy and Time

“The celebration of the birth of Christ [is] the dawning of the new light, the true sun, of history.” Pope Benedict XVI, The Spirit of the Liturgy, p. 107.
Today’s antiphon brings us good news of a great light to come. The Latin Oriens has been translated into many different English phrases including: Dawn in the East, Morning Star, Rising Sun, and Dayspring. Each of these phrases relates Christ to the sun, and the antiphon as a whole reminds us to pray and keep watch.
A new day is dawning as Christmas draws near. Morning comes to us each day, slowly and gently filling our world with light. On Christmas morning, Our Lord was born into a world of darkness. But He brought with Him, in this same slow and gentle way, the true light to guide us on our path. He calls us from our darkness and sin into a new day. Each Advent we once again wait for the coming of Christ, in the same way the prophets anticipated the coming of this great light:
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:78-79)
What significance does the sun have in our lives? Our sleeping and waking, our very sense of time as we know it, is punctuated by the cosmos. We orient ourselves to the rising and the setting, living in accordance with these daily patterns. Pope Benedict XVI in his work The Spirit of the Liturgy suggests that both the sun and the moon “show how much man is woven into the fabric of the universe. Time is first of all a cosmic phenomenon. Man lives with the stars.” (93)
As we celebrate Christmas, as we rejoice in God Incarnate, we recognize that time and space are forever interconnected in Christ, who is both God and man. And because of this profound interconnectedness, time and space are joined again and again through our Christian prayer, and most especially through our liturgy. “The sacred space of the Christian worship of God is itself already opened toward time.” (94) When we pray, we turn toward the morning star in the East, the same radiant sun born to us on Christmas morning, and risen again at Easter.
There is a cosmic beauty that this Antiphon comes to us on the shortest day of the year. These cold, dark days of Advent are full of longing and anticipation. But this very day we are called to wake from our slumber. Our Lord is coming and He is Light from Light, here to guide us who live in darkness. This Christmas, let us go to meet Him in His liturgy, where Heaven meets Earth and God meets man.

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