O 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:
whose skin was dark
like the rich brown earth
from which all things grew
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
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.