O, Light of Dawn

“O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.” (O Antiphon for Dec 21st)

Natick, Massachusetts has been buried under a stubborn snowstorm over the past 48 hours or so, and it seems to have been a while since the light of dawn has made its presence felt. The feeling intensifies when I open my window to the world, and peer out at what is happening in my society today.

Christ, as the Sun of Justice, not only judges in righteousness, but also illuminates. For the second day in a row, the antiphon references the plight of those “who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Lk 1:79). This seems strangely appropriate as I look on the spectacle unfolding around Barack Obama’s invitation to Rick Warren to pray the invocation at Obama’s inauguration ceremony in January.

When I first saw the swirling blurbs of a scandal brewing, I immediately assumed that conservative Evangelicals (often wary of Rick Warren anyway) were inveighing against Warren for accepting the invitation, and therein supplying Obama’s image machine with a pretense of mainstream Evangelicalism’s accommodation of Obama’s notoriously radical and unholy social agenda. I will confess to having had some initial pangs of sympathy with that perspective (no doubt partly fueled by my own ambivalence toward Warren, whom I rightly or wrongly see as more of a best-selling promoter of self-help religion than a prophetic Christian witness), but I soon concluded that such reactionaryism was unwarranted – recognizing that the requirement to pray for and honor public leaders is not conditioned upon their policy aims – nor even their character.

How profoundly shocked I was, once I bit on some of the story teases, to learn that the outrage was coming from the left! Warren’s rejection of the “gay marriage” ploy is apparently enough to constitute him as a “bigot” unfit to give such a solemn invocation. But I have to ask, what does that make every other minister who has ever given the invocation for the Presidential office? For that matter, what does it make virtually every single human being who has ever populated this sorry planet?

Shine upon those in darkness and the shadow of death, indeed, O Light of Dawn.