21 December 2005

O Oriens

O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae et sol iustitiae: Veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris et umbra mortis.
O Rising brightness of everlasting light and Sun of justice: come and enlighten those sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death.

As the calendar is currently arranged, this fifth antiphon is sung on the shortest day of the year. The rising sun, the Oriens, from the Latin verb orior is translated as the "Branch" in the book of Zechariah, which the angel of the Lord announces (3:12). The title Oriens as well as the two which follow, everlasting light and Sun of justice, all link Christ, present with God at the beginning of the world, to the sun which came to be on the fourth day of creation. This same light is experienced as the fulfillment of what Yahweh promised to the people of Israel; for Zechariah, father of St. John the Baptist, announces that God, "from on high will bring the rising Sun to visit us, to give light to those who live in darkness and the shadow of death" (Lk1:78-9).

Nature's brightest star is but a mere indication of the brightness of the light of Christ. To the people of Israel, the Branch, the one who rises from the stump of Jesse, is the longed-for-Messiah; to those preparing to celebrate the Incarnation of the second person of the Most Holy Trinity, the Branch is the Messiah who has come and who comes again each year, in the hearts of Christians. As we prepare our hearts to welcome the Lord, let us clothe ourselves in the light which flows from the Sun of justice. Let us seek justice in all our relationships. Justice is what we owe to one another; some relationships are equal -- marriage, siblings, peers, co-workers, etc.; in other relationships it is proper that it be "unequal" -- parents and children, teachers and students, employer and employees, etc. When we examine our relationships, we may find that we "owe" a little more to some people than we ordinarily give. Advent is a wonderful time to ask for the grace to be more generous in our relationships with one another. Let us thank the Lord for the different relationships in our lives and let us strive to be true sons and daughters of the Sun of justice. Come, Lord Jesus.

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