Dec. 21: O Dayspring!
I realize that most modern renderings have "O Rising Dawn", but
indulge me in this one. As a lover of Gerard Manley Hopkins, I vastly
prefer the much more poetic "O Dayspring" And besides, who said
translation must be pedestrian to be relevant? (It often seems
someone must have....) "Daypsring" also carries the hopeful connotation of Spring-to-come, of Resurrection, a powerful thought on the first day of winter! It is especially so this year, as Massachusetts is swathed in early snow and ice!
"O Dayspring, Radiance of the Light eternal and Sun of Justice; come
and enlighten those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death."
I wonder if the appearance of today's sun image landed on the winter
solstice accidentally. Given the Middle Ages' fascination with such
things, one would suspect it was deliberate choice. Just as the
natural sun ebbs to it weakest point, the Sun of Justice Who shall
never diminish, is proclaimed. The images today, while reflected in
both Old and New Testaments are more from nature than those of the
Jesus calls Himself the Light and the Life. Surely the sun gives
both, and so, here does the Sun of Justice. We could not live without
the sun, our planet would be a barren, frozen wasteland without it.
The image of dawn, of the dayspring, holds a further message: the sun
is too blinding to look at at noon, but the gentler sun of both
rising and setting is not only gentler and less extreme, but floods
the sky and the earth with its lovelier color and majesty. This is yet another
repetition of the theme of gentleness/strength. The reference to the
Sun of Righteousness (Mal. 4:1-2) contrasts two experiences of the
Messianic power "glowing like a furnace." For the wicked, it will
burn them like chaff, but for those who fear God's name, "the sun of
righteousness shall rise with healing." Jesus' power and majesty and
strength are truly a balm to us.
Naturally, to Christian (and especially Benedictine!) ears, the most
obvious connections here will be those of the Benedictus, the
Canticle of Zachary in Luke 1:78-79, the "Oriens ex alto", the
dayspring from on high, which shall burst forth and shine on all
those "who sit in darkness and the shadow of death." The message
today is the end of darkness, the end of shadow, the end of death.
The Messiah, the Sun of Righteousness has dispelled them all.
The Radiance of the Light eternal is found in Hebrews 1:3 as an
attribute of Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity. My favorite
translation, the New English Bible, renders it thus: "...the Son Who
is the effulgence of God's splendour and the stamp of God's being and
sustains the universe by His word of power." The Son is, as we say in
the Creed, truly "Light from Light." He would not have to do anything
to end the world, He would have to STOP doing something, stop willing
it and us, stop sustaining it. The creation is the daily and ever
present act of the Son, something ongoing in His will maintaining all
Those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death are not just a
group of outsiders. There are many such corners of gloom in our own
souls, to which we frequently retire for a holiday from the struggles
of grace. Today we invite the Sun to illuminate even those recesses,
to leave us no place to hide from Him in the damp and chill of
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]