O Antiphons: O Rising Sun . . . enlighten us


December 21
O Oriens (Isaiah 9:1):
“O Rising Sun, you are the splendor of eternal light and the sun of justice. O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.”

From the Rev. Carol Morehead

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.   Genesis 1:1-5

There is a wonderful rhythm of darkness and light that punctuates our lives.  In the creation story of Genesis 1, darkness is that starting point, and God begins the act of creation with speaking light into being:  Let there be light.  And it was so.  The cycle of a day is measured from evening to evening, and from that first light that dawned, there has always been the sure promise of the dawn breaking, bringing us out of darkness and into the light of day.

Isaiah reminds us of God’s promise of light.  The Rising Sun of the light of God shines on the world, bringing justice, bringing enlightenment, bringing life.  And in these short, often dark days, we may ask, What does the sun of justice look like in our world, in our lives?  It looks like hands held out in friendship, meals shared with those who have no food, clothes to those who have none, sickness healed, hurting hearts bound with grace, words of hatred drowned out by open hands and open hearts, with forgiveness and mercy.  When the light of God shines into the darkness of injustice, of oppression, of shadow and death and sin, the light gives new life, fresh eyes, strength to meet the day with hope, seeing the promises of life lived with justice.  “Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public,” said Cornel West.

One of my favorite paintings is called the Star of Bethlehem by Edward Byrnes Jones.  In it, an angel holds the star that led the magi to Bethlehem.  They have all arrived from afar, and they are before the manger, crowns removed, humble and curious.  But they are not kneeling, and the painting captures their moment of decision.  What will they do with this child?  Will they cast down their crowns?  Will they bend the knee?  Will they be led by this new Light that has come into the world?

As we await the Christ Child, we too must decide what we will do.  Will we see the light that is dawning in our world?  Will we feel the light within, yearning to shine into the darkness of the world?  Will the light shine into the darkness of oppression and sin and death, bringing justice and hope?  Will we know that each night, as the vesper light fades into the darkness of night, the sun will once more pierce the darkness and bring the morning light?  Always?


The Rev. Carol Morehead is Associate Rector for Liturgy, Adult Formation, and Pastoral Care at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in San Antonio TX.

Photography by the Rev. Doug Earle. See more of Doug’s work at Www.DougEarlePhotography.com.

The well-known Advent hymn O Come O Come Emmanuel recalls the prophet Isaiah’s several descriptions of the coming Messiah. During the seventh and eighth centuries, these descriptions were compiled into antiphons and were recited before and after the Magnificat during Vespers or Evening Prayer for the seven evenings preceding Christmas.

We present these O Antiphons from December 17 to December 23 along with meditations from writers across the diocese and the photography of the Rev. Doug Earle.

For more about the O Antiphons click here.

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