As I’ve preached earlier this week, in these last days of Advent, we are praying the “O Antiphons” in the Liturgy, and especially in Evening Prayer. The O Antiphons are the various titles of Jesus as given to us in Sacred Scripture, and they manifest our longing for the appearance of Christ. Today the O Antiphon is O Oriens, or O Dayspring. It could also be translated O Morning Star or O Radiant Dawn. Today we pray that Christ would come and enlighten our hearts and brighten a world dark in sin.
The significance of light and darkness really strikes me, because, who hasn’t noticed that there is a lot more darkness this time of year? I know a lot of people who get depressed this time of year. Probably you do too – maybe you’re even one of them. Many people are missing loved ones who are far away from home, or who have passed away. Some of my friends have a touch of seasonal affective disorder, and so they are depressed when we don’t see the sun as much on cloudy day, or when it gets dark so early as it does during this time. Some people also look back on another year almost finished, and they lament what could have been, or what actually has been. And if there is any reason for being a little depressed at this time of year, it often seems like the joy that other people are experiencing during the Christmas season makes the pain even worse.
In essence, this is what Advent is all about: the season of Advent recognizes the darkness of the world – the physical darkness, sure, but more than that, the darkness of a world steeped in sin, a world marred by war and terrorism, an economy decimated by greed, peacefulness wounded by hatred, crime and dangers of all sorts. This season of Advent also recognizes the darkness of our own lives – sin that has not been confessed, relationships broken by self-interest, personal growth tabled by laziness and fear.
Advent says that God meets all that darkness head-on. As we continue to light the candles on the Advent Wreath, we see more light all the time, up until the feast of that great light which we will celebrate in just four days. Today’s Gospel gives us a glimpse at that bright light: the infant John the Baptist leaps in his mother’s womb at the nearness of the Savior. Saint Elizabeth gives words to such great joy: “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
Receiving the light, we are called to bear that light to the dark world around us through our prayers, our acts of charity, and our living with integrity and love. And so we pray: Come to us, O Radiant Dawn: scatter the darkness of our world and our hearts. Shine on your people who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death. Help us to be your light to all the world. Come, Lord Jesus. Come quickly and do not delay!