Archive for O Radiant Dawn

O Radiant Dawn: The Circle of Life

Posted in Advent, O Antiphons, Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 21, 2013 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

earthsunriseO Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

The catchiness of Disney’s The Lion King‘s opening song notwithstanding, I’m thinking of a circle of life having to do with a little more substance in light of today’s antiphon: “O Radiant Dawn, Splendor of Eternal Light.” Light itself is the source of life, at least that’s the case in this world. Without our Sun, there would be no life nor would there be an ecosystem capable of sustaining the life that finds its origins in that gaseous star closest to us. Each dawn marks the cycle, the circle, of light and darkness, of life and death, that completes the circle of life on this planet: Photosynthesis, consumption, decomposition, metabolization, regrowth, and so on.

Like all other living creatures — human and nonhuman alike — we are dependent on light to live. But like the bread about which Jesus speaks in the Gospel, we do not live on planetary light alone!

There is another light that dispels the darkness of death, a light that shows the way to go, a light that brings another kind of life. This is Christ the Light, the God of Light. What is interesting about what constitutes the Radiant Dawn, the Light of Life, is that this light is also the sun of justice. The life that Jesus Christ came to bring, that life that he desires us to have and live to the fullest, is a life of justice and peace. It is a life that is perhaps best reflected in the words and actions of Pope Francis when he calls our attention to the plight of the poor and downtrodden, the marginalized and forgotten, the voiceless and those thrown away.

The circle of life calls us to move in a direction away from the darkness of the night brought about by injustice and abuse, suffering and subjugation, to recognize that only in addressing these sins — individually and socially — can we begin to live in the light toward which we are called. This is why we celebrate Christmas. This is why we celebrate what the Hebrew Prophets and John the Baptist foretold. This is what it means to call ourselves Christians.

The imagery of light is used frequently throughout the Gospels to describe what it means to announce the Kingdom of God. We are called to reflect that light, which comes from the sun of justice, such that we can shine God’s love, mercy, forgiveness, and good news on others. We don’t do this with empty words and vapid platitudes, but with our feet and our hands and our actions.

Today’s antiphon includes a petition on our behalf: “Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,” but it implies a response that we might not want to hear — a response, I believe, that most of us usually ignore.

The response as laid out in Scripture and modeled by the holy lives of saints and women and men of good will over the centuries is that the light of justice only shines when we are willing to be bearers of that light. Christ is not a helicopter savior who pops down miraculously here and there to help this or that person. Christ is the fullest revelation of who God is and simultaneously reveals to us who we are. We are the bearers of that light, we are those whose lives are nourished and sustained by the sun of justice, we are the ones who must do something.

Photo: Stock

O Radiant Dawn: Come, Creator of Light

Posted in Advent, O Antiphons, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on December 21, 2012 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

Space sunriseO Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

The name “Creator of Light” has always been one of my favorite names for God. I remember first reading and loving a children’s book titled, In God’s Name by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso and illustrated by Phoebe Stone, a few years ago that presents a number of children and adults and talks about the various ways each person, given his or her cultural, work, and familial histories, named God. The book begins:

After God created the world
all living things on earth
were given a name.
The plants and the trees,
the animals and the fish
and each person,
young and old,
had a special name.

But no one knew
the name for God.

So each person searched
for God’s name.

With beautiful and bright illustrations, the book continues with a short glance into the worlds of different people who, as it would happen, name God based on his or her context and location. The first example is:

The farmer
whose skin was dark
like the rich brown earth
from which all things grew
called God
Source of Life.

Another example later on shows a soldier sitting under a tree and embracing a saddened lion while surrounded by Poppies. The soldier is crying.

The tired soldier who fought too many wars
called God
Maker of Peace.

I really love this book, for it helps identify an existential truth of our historical situation, something that so many religious leaders and believers choose not to accept: our names for God are at one-and-the-same-time helpful and true, while also inadequate and human. Yes, as it is sometimes argued, we have revealed names for God — the Bible is full of them. Nevertheless, the God of our ancestors, the God of Jesus Christ is also far beyond any of the human language in which the Scriptures is cast and by which we express our faith.

My favorite name for God in this book, is Creator of Light, which is given by “the girl whose skin was as golden as the sun that turned night into day.” One does not need to have skin the color of the sun — everybody knows that my Irish-American skin is anything but that — to appreciate the significance, beauty, and awe that comes with the move from night into day.

Furthermore, the Creator of Light is already also the Source of Life as we know so well from our knowledge of biology. Without the sun, without light, we would have no existence, and for this gift of life and light, we are grateful.

The coming of Christ announced in today’s O Antiphon points to this truth, the truth in a physical way and in a spiritual way, if such a distinction really can be made. Light gives life, but it also uncovers and makes known the injustice of our world, gives hope to those in the dark shadows of death, and offers us the promise of a future, of something more, of a breaking dawn.

Photo: Stock

O Radiant Dawn: Light of Christ in our Hearts and World

Posted in O Antiphons with tags , , , , , on December 21, 2011 by Daniel P. Horan, OFM

O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

“Creator of Light” has been, for a long time, one of my favorite names for God. For some reason the image of Light, going back to the earliest part of the Book of Genesis and throughout the Hebrew and Christian traditions, has spoken to my heart in a way that other names for God (recognizing that all human names ultimately fall short) simply have not. It strikes me this morning that “O Radiant Dawn,” the address in today’s O Antiphon, conveys a spirit of warmth and intimacy that is needed on this, December 21st, the date of the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere — the longest period of darkness in the year.

As much as I appreciate the cooler weather (I’m an Autumn kind of guy), I always get a bit anxious as the days get shorter and night grows longer as Fall rolls into Winter. I miss the abundance of light of the Summer and the increasing light of Spring. Yet, amid the darkest of days, the longest of nights, we pray together for the truest of lights, the Radiant Dawn, to break into our hearts and world.

This morning at Mass, I played one of my favorite Advent/Christmas hymns on the piano with a brother friar on the guitar: Awake! Awake! by Marty Haugen. It seemed to me, at least, to capture well what it is we anticipate in our prayerful longing and what we celebrate in naming Christ the Light that breaks into the morning. Here are the last two verses of the total four.

In deepest night Christ’s coming shall be,
when all the world is despairing.
Where people long to love and be free,
Christ comes to speak of God’s caring.
A soul without voice breaks forth in song,
a lame one leaps in wonder,
the weak are raised above the strong,
and weapons are broken asunder.

Rejoice, rejoice, take heart in the night,
though winds blow wildly and cheerless,
the rising sun shall crown you with light,
be strong and loving and fearless.
Love be our song and love our prayer,
and love, our endless story,
may God fill every day we share,
and bring us at last into glory.

On these darkest nights of the year, may the coming of the Lord, who is the Light of the World, shine in your hearts like the Radiant Dawn we recall today. In turn may “Love be our song and love our prayer, and love, our endless story, may God fill every day we share, and bring us at last into glory.”

Photo: Stock
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