O Antiphons – December 21 – O Oriens – ‘I Am theLight of the World’

The Advent Antiphons are said or sung before and after the Magnificat at Vespers each evening of the week immediately prior to Christmas. Each one speaks of an aspect of the One who is to come, Israel’s hope and a Light to the Gentiles.

This set of reflections juxtaposes each of the Antiphons with one of the seven ‘I AM’ sayings of Jesus Christ, the embodied Hope of all Creation – the Word made flesh.

In this video, the Dominican brothers of Blackfriars Oxford sing the Magnificat Antiphon, O Oriens

O Oriens,
splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae:
veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.
O Rising Dawn,
Radiance of the Light eternal and Sun of Justice:
Come, and enlighten those who sit in darkness, and the shadow of death.
(Translation from Benedictine Daily Prayer: Liturgical Press)
Those of us who live in higher latitudes, especially in the summer months *, have perhaps little sense of the sudden change from day to night of those lands closer to the equator, such as the land of Palestine. Here night falls, and day breaks. There is not much by way of dawn or dusk. This suddenness of the Rising Dawn in the East in this Antiphon – draws us to the words of the prophet : ‘the LORD whom you seek will come to his temple’ So as the one who watches for the dawn has only the briefest of opportunities to announce it, the Light of the World does not slowly dawn on our consciousness, rousing us gently from slumber . . . thus we are commanded to Keep Awake! through Advent. To remain alert and attentive, for the signs of his presence remind us that He Is Near.
And a more sure and certain light we could not hope for.
The Psalmist describes the Word of God as a light to our paths and a Lamp to our feet. Often the world may seem a very dark place – often it seems that we know not what we should do, yet He Is Near. Jesus tells us that He is the sure light, the Light of the World. Which way should we go? ‘Follow me!’ he at once invites and commands us. ‘Whoever follows me will have the light of life and will never walk in darkness’. He is Near, Always Near! If we have lost sight of Him it is because we have fallen prey to the distractions of the World.
The World promises much to us which glitters and glistens, which suggests security and salvation but they deceive.
On some mornings I am graced to see the sun rise over the Pacific Ocean *. Where I live it is particularly intense, but it is never certain. When we look for other lights, they fail. ‘Put not your trust in princes or in any child of man’. They fail, they are flawed. Put not your trust in the abundance of your possessions for they will perish. Rather put your trust in the one who is the World’s true light.
Advent like all of the seasons of the Church is given to sharpen the essentials of our faith. In Advent we renew our sleep threatened attentiveness – the continual practice of waiting upon the Lord, ‘as the eye of a maid looks to the hand of her mistress’
This Antiphon of the Rising Sun, reminds us that the time draws very near. Wake! Watch! Pray! For your Lord comes! Suddenly! Light!
* This blog is written in Southern New Zealand where it is at once Advent and the days are at their longest

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