During the final seven evenings of Advent, which begin on December 17, the antiphons for the Magnificat during evening prayer all begin with ‘O’ followed by a different name for the Messiah. The various names for the prophesied Christ originate from the book of Isaiah the prophet, to whom we hear from mostly during the Advent Season. As a group, these antiphons are known as the O Antiphons. The most common Advent hymn, O Come Emmanuel, is a hymn variation of these seven names of the Messiah. Yesterday, we covered the fourth of these antiphons, the O Clavis David antiphon. We will spend the next three evenings looking at the remaining antiphons each in turn as we journey toward Christmas Day.
December 21 – O Oriens Antiphon (AKA O Rising Sun Antiphon)
O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.
Isaiah Reference: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. (Isaiah 9:2)
Heard here or in the video below, this chant speaks of the splendor or the Christ’s light that will dispel the darkness.
I recently read an article about why kids are afraid of the dark that was, no pun intended, illuminating. It seems at about the time when kids have and develop an imagination, they begin to imagine monsters under the bed, or in the closet. Fear of being separated, and of that which is unknown and unseen frightens children to protect themselves with a shield of blankets. I suppose this is where the nightlight was born. Just a little light, and there’s hope of, even sureness of, safety.
I have a dear friend with whom I had coffee late yesterday, around 11 at night. We talked of our lives for over five hours, holding hands until the morning. There was safety in her hands. Her pulsing hands were a nightlight to all the things of which I spoke with fear. How strange that it was on December 21st, the shortest day of daylight, that I experienced just this little bit of light in someone’s loving hands and was able to hope again and believe in the possibility of light. When I left, I knew there weren’t any monsters under my bed and felt no need to cover my head with blankets. I suppose it is no surprise that in the Christmas story, angels speak of the coming joy of Christ (light). I left, filled with gratitude for the angel that was her, who spoke so eloquently of light.
If you’re experiencing any darkness this day, I promise you, there will be light. It will come from the most unexpected of places, a lowly manger, or just maybe a dimly lit coffee house.