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.”