O Oriens - an Advent reflection

A reflection on O Oriens ... O Morning Star (or Dayspring)

People who walk in the early morning often find pleasure in seeing the reddish light before dawn, which splits the darkness into daylight. It is a moment in time when light just begins to overrule darkness.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, Pope Francis acknowledged how:  "Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives.’

It has seemed at times that the darkness is still in control; that the rest of our lives will be an endless despair, leading to death and darkness. 

I think immediately of the words spoken by Simeon when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple: "Now at last.... my eyes have seen the Light of the Nations." Luke 2:29-32. How the world needs that Light now in its present blindness, with so much injustice and wickedness by one person towards brother/sister, from the time of Cain and Abel. When God made mankind, it was good, very good. Our sinfulness spoiled God's handiwork! Jesus, the Light of the world, came to restore the Universality of mankind - to undo the evil of Cain and the pride and disobedience of Adam and Eve.

Jesus is the brightest star, promising and welcoming the dawn, and revealing the promise of a new day: ‘Rising Sun, you are the splendour of eternal light,’ Habakkuk 3:4 ‘the sun of justice,’ Malachi 4:2. ‘O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,’ Luke 1:78 - A verse of the beautiful Benedictus, put on the lips of Zachariah by Luke.

This might bring a strange mixture of hope and fear, for as much as we long for the light at the end of this pandemic, daylight exposes all our deeds and everything that we have done wrong. Sometimes it can feel easier to hide behind the darkness. Perhaps the lockdown period has enabled us to hide away from the world with all our fears and concerns, and difficulties and challenges.

But the coming of Christ reminds us that we must rise to meet our Dayspring – the bringer of light, knowing that as Christ shines his light upon us, he banishes the darkness and paves the way to prepare us for our return to God. 

O Oriens - Malcolm Guite

E vidi lume in forme de riviera Paradiso XXX; 61

First light and then first lines along the east
To touch and brush a sheen of light on water
As though behind the sky itself they traced

The shift and shimmer of another river
Flowing unbidden from its hidden source;
The Day-Spring, the eternal Prima Vera.

Blake saw it too. Dante and Beatrice
Are bathing in it now, away upstream…
So every trace of light begins a grace

In me, a beckoning. The smallest gleam
Is somehow a beginning and a calling;
“Sleeper awake, the darkness was a dream

For you will see the Dayspring at your waking,
Beyond your long last line the dawn is breaking”.

© Malcolm Guite, from the Great O Antiphons in Sounding the Seasons, Canterbury Press 2012 www.malcolmguite.com Used by permission.


Please join now in saying The Magnificat, with the fifth great antiphon.

O Morning Star,
splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour;
he has looked with favour on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed
the almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his name.

He has mercy on those who fear him
from generation to generation.

He has shown strength with his arm
and scattered the proud in their conceit,

Casting down the mighty from their thrones
and lifting up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty.

He has come to the aid of his servant Israel
to remember his promise of mercy.

The promise made to our ancestors
To Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father and to the Son
And to the Holy Spirit
As it was in the beginning is now
and shall be for ever

O Morning Star,
splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

From Common Worship © The Archbishops Council of the Church of England 2000-2006

The Bible quotations are from The New Revised Standard Version Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995 Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved