Tuesday, December 21, 2010

O Rising Sun - Dec 21

O Oriens,
splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae:
veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.
O Rising,
splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those sitting in darkness and the shadow of death.
The 'O Antiphons' are sung before and after the Magnificat which is sung at Vespers.  The Magnificat is one of the three great gospel canticles sung every day during the office of the whole church.  The canticle of Zachariah is sung at Lauds and the canticle of Simeon is sung at Compline.
Other canticles from the Old Testament are sung with the psalms at Lauds. Canticles are prays of praise; many were sung after a great event of God's mercy: for example the Canticles of Tobias, Ezechiel, Judith, Anna, Moses and the three children. Tobias sang a canticle after the Angel Raphael revealed himself.  Ezechial wrote after he was cured and God had the sun go back ten steps, the three children sang when God delivered them from the furnace.
Now Anna sang when she delivered her son Samuel to the temple after having him when she was thought barren.  This reminds of the birth of John the Baptist.  At his birth his father, Zacharia sang.  Anna's Canticle also reminds us of the Magnificat, which is Mary's Canticle.  Not only could it be supposed that both could not have children, but they both were to give birth to extraordinary men.  Both of their canticles begin in a similar way: 
Anna: "My heart hath rejoiced in the Lord, and my horn is exalted in my God." 
Mary: "My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour."  
These canticles have many similarities throughout.  
Anna: "The bow of the mighty is overcome, and the weak are girt with strength.  ... the hungry are filled."
Mary: "He hath put down the mighty from their seat,
 and hath exalted the humble.
  He hath filled the hungry with good things."
You can see Mary may have been inspired by the word's of Anna.  But Mary's Canticle is singular in her words about herself:
"For behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
  Because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me."
Mary's Magnificat is the greatest of all the Canticles.  It is fitting that this canticle be reserved for the most important of all the offices, Vespers.
O Oriens... In this 'O Antiphon' we pray for people in a similar predicament to those we prayed for in the last 'O Antiphon'.  The reason they are in this predicament is different than in the last antiphon although the result is the same.  They are both "sitting in the shadow of darkness and the shadow."   But those in the last Antiphon were in prison while those in this antiphon are living in a perpetual night. In the last situation bonds held them from getting to the light; in this one they simply are in darkness.  We need to be reminded that not only does Christ forgive us our sins but he does something even greater when he enlightens us with the faith.  To pull captives out of prison is one thing, to turn the entire orb of the earth so that we face the sun is a greater work.
However just as we take the rising of the sun for granted,  we may mistakenly take for granted that we can come to the faith and a luminous understanding of our faith on our own.   Christ enlightens us.  There is no other. There is nothing else like the sun in our world.  And what natural event is comparable to the daily but wonderful rising of the sun?  Everything else depends on it to be enlightened.  Now remember that we should pray for the Spiritual Dawn, the Rising.

Okay, the letters now are "__o Cras."  We are on to another word in code: only two to go!

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