- O Oriens,
- splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae:
- veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.
- O light of the East,
- splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
- Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
Isaiah had prophesied:
- “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined.” Isaiah 9:2
The Advent Antiphons are based on a series of metaphors for Christ. There is something almost primeval, for anyone living in the western quadrant of the northern hemisphere (i.e. those for whom Bethlehem is the east) in looking towards the rising sun as the source of our light, and strength, and hope. This goes beyond Christianity – Shakespeare has Romeo saying: What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. The audience immediately grasps, and is in tune with, his feelings. So the Christmas story grafts on to this very human sentiment the birth of Christ, and our star, shining in the east. There is another sense in which the imagery for today is pre-Christian in the northern hemisphere – it is our shortest day, and the day on which we feel most keenly the desire for light.
Christ was not born on the shortest day – it is as if he waited for mankind to pull back from the brink, knowing that somehow, in the darkest of days, we must begin by trying to find the strength to be a source of light ourselves. And then he comes, as a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our path.
Thanks to Lay Anglicana, sidebar
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