Wednesday, December 21, 2011

O Rising Dawn, Dayspring of the Radiant Light

An old Benedictus antiphon from the Office for Wednesday in the fourth week of Advent says: "Do not be afraid! Five more days and the Lord will come to you!" Longing...excitement...anticipation! Sound familiar? Perhaps a little like your children as they await Christmas, or those of someone you know? I read similar thoughts today on Facebook from an adult in my own extended family! It seems that the Church, too, can hardly wait for the "Radiant Light" to shine upon us:

O Rising Dawn, Radiance of the Light eternal
and Sun of Justice; come, and enlighten those
who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death!

The approaching Holy One is like the sun, and the Church uses three wonderful metaphors: 
+ Christ is the Rising Dawn: Isaiah (9:2) proclaims that "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...", and in 60:3 notes that "Nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn." Luke shows Zechariah, John the Baptizer's father, proclaiming "And you, child,....will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people...By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." Christ, the Rising Sun, dispels spiritual darkness and death and disperses light and life. "I am the light of the world", Jesus later proclaimed. We associate the sun and light with warmth, joy, and health. By contrast, we have all known our own overshadowing darknesses: depression, hopelessness, anxiety, aloneness, etc. 
+ Christ is the Radiant Light: Jesus the Christ is also the Light eternal, of one substance as the eternal Father. In the Nicene Creed we speak of Jesus as "...the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God..."
+ Christ is the Sun of Justice: The prophet Malachi proclaims (4:2) "...for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings..." Christ is the source of holiness, grace and blessing. What the sun does for nature, Christ does for us who are called into the reign of God. Along with the darknesses and shadows mentioned above, we can also include people who have never heard the message of the Good News of God in Christ, strange as that may seem in today's world of ultra-technology; unbelievers, whether by reasoned choice, or because of faulty and distorted theological education; those who, perhaps, once believed, but who've been so abused and hurt by others or by life's circumstances that they no longer find it possible to set their hearts on the living Christ. If those who cherish the undeserved gift of faith describe the Christ they know with terms like "justice" and "righteousness", then surely they believe in their hearts that Jesus the Holy One will make it "right" for those people in God's time and manner.  

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