Monday, 21 December 2009

O Oriens

O Rising Sun, you are the splendour of eternal light and the sun of justice. O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

In biblical language, the East is that part of the world from where the sun rises to give light, warmth and life. In the creation narrative we read: “And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed.” (Gen 2: 8). The origin of humanity is in paradise, in the east.
Christianity was aware of this from the word go. In the primitive liturgy of baptism the candidates renounced Satan facing West the land of darkness, and made their promises to Christ facing East, the symbol of resurrection life and light which the candidate was taking on.
This is why it is the best and proper practice of the Church to pray facing East, this is why the sanctuary in churches is at the East end. This is why Christians are buried facing East. The rising sun is the symbol of Christ in his second coming for the universal judgement.
This is the reason why the Church sees Christ as the Rising Sun. Today’s antiphon proclaims Christ as rising sun splendour of eternal light and sun of justice.
Light is attributed to God: “God is light and in Him there is no darkness” (1Jn 1: 5). God is wrapped in light as with a cloak (Psalm 103: 2): He is found in inaccessible light (1 Tim 6: 16). When the Messiah is born, Isaiah tells us that the people walking in darkness will see a great light. Forty-days-old Jesus will be proclaimed by Simeon as light to lighten the nations. (Lk 2: 32) He is the light that illuminates all people. (Jn 2: 32) Jesus himself says that he is the light of the world and those that follow him will know no darkness. (Jn 8:12) As the light of the sun sheds light on every thing that stands in front of it so the Christ will shed light on every human situation to see it as it really is and to transform it in a moment of blessing. To Christ our light is this antiphon addressed echoing the words of Zachary: to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. (Lk 1: 79)
On Christmas this light will visit us from on high, it will be offered to all and make available to all light, life and joy.

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