Welcome to the shortest day of the year, at least in the northern hemisphere. Tomorrow there will be more light. It is appropriate that today’s ‘O’Anitphon’ is: O, Oriens (O dayspring)
O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer,
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Tomorrow brings more daylight, Christ puts darkness to flight.
This title of Christ, that relates Him to the passing of gloom and night towards daylight. The eternal sunrise of the son of God. Gives us hope as He is the light we search for. This church we are in is beautiful (old church of St John the Baptist, Winfield, Illinois), about 112 years ago they built this place of worship with the understanding of the importance of this cosmic meaning and of facing east; which is not surprising since the congregation was, for the most part, farming related. They understood that we face east, towards the sunrise as we participate in the sacrifice of the Mass. We look towards the cosmic sunrise and celebrate the renewal of creation with the coming of the divine son – a daily renewal. This understanding and reliance upon the renewal by Christ and His Holy Spirit gave meaning to their lives, the reliance upon Christ and the journey towards holiness with His help. They understood who they were and what they should be – and they grew in fear of the Lord.
In the past 100 years we seem to have lost this connection, this understanding. Mankind, in his greatness, has surrounded himself with monuments to this greatness. We cocoon ourselves with light and technology and in doing so we have lost the sensitivity of being part of the cosmic progression and our part in God’s creation. Our ability to participate in the cycles of nature and the universe have made it harder to delve into the plan of the Lord.
It is imperative that we try to regain this; that we appreciate the beauty of creation and our part in God’s design. In doing this we come to better understand two important things.
First, who is Christ to us. Christ asks each of us, ‘who do you say that I am?’ The O’Antiphons as titles of Christ, in a small but important way, help us to better answer His question. In reflecting on these antiphons we can discern Christ in our lives, His importance. Build a better relationship with our God because we understand who He is.
Also, in striving to answer His question we also come to a better understanding ourselves. By knowing who Christ is to us, we come to understand who we are, what we should be. Come to appreciate what St Paul, in his letter to the Romans wrote: that a Christian is someone who is “called to belong to Jesus Christ“ and “called to be holy.“
Brothers and sisters, my hope is that as we continue our Advent journey that we dwell on Christ’s question to us ‘who do you say that I am?’ by meditating on these ancient and glorious O’Antiphons; and, in doing so, come to a better understanding of who we are. So that by Christmas, as we look down upon the babe in the manger we have a better, deeper answer for both questions.