O Oriens

“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)

Ironic, isn’t it?, that the antiphon for the Winter Solstice calls upon Christ as the Light of Dawn, or Rising Sun, or Dayspring from On High! Like all the antiphons of this octave, it recalls an Isaiahan Messianic prophecy: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shown.” (9:1 in NAB – 9:2 in most versions).

All the bells and whistles of this commercial season strike me as expressing something between a denial of the dreadful barrenness of the world in the darkness of winter, and a mockery of the hope that looks forward to new life springing out of that barrenness. The shadow of death has long fingers, and truly spares us not. Yet the frivolity we greet it with does not confront it with any kind of meaningful hope, but obscures it with a parade of jingle bells and other distracting inanities. And there are times in which that becomes more plainly evident than others; this is one of those times, I’m afraid.