Disperse the gloomy clouds of night, and death’s dark shadow put to flight. The Hymnal 1982
O radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death. Traditional
I hope you are noticing that all the traditional “O” antiphons are about freedom and/or justice. That is a signal that the Church has always believed that Christmas is about precisely these things, rather than simply the sentimentality of a baby born in a manger. This birth is the birth of freedom and justice, a definitive act of God for these things. Emmanuel is born, God with us for the purpose of our freedom and justice, our shalom, as the angels proclaimed, “Peace on earth and goodwill to all, whom God favors.” I like to insert the comma between “all” and “whom,” which changes the text from an exclusive to an inclusive vision. There is no punctuation in the Greek of the New Testament, so a case could be made that I am right in doing this.
Today is also the Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, an odd event right before Christmas, remembering the “doubter” of the resurrection. But Thomas is “everyman” (excuse the exclusive language). In terms of today’s antiphon, he simple needs to see the Dawn before he will believe it is rising. And when he does, he believes. That’s not such a bad thing.
What we must remember is that we are a part of that rising Dawn, we are co-creators of that “dayspring.” It is as if God needs our help in lifting the sun above the horizon so that those who “dwell in darkness and the shadow of death” may see it and believe.
Psssst! Today is Peter Peters 44th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood! It is also Don Page’s 36th. Many will remember Don as a sometime-supply priest and sometime-visitor to Two Saints.