During the final days of Advent, the anticipation increases as the birth of the Savior draws near. In the seven evenings before Christmas, this anticipation is marked by the “O” Antiphons. This liturgical tradition from the earliest days of the Church emphasizes a different prophetic title of Christ as foreshadowed by the prophet Isaiah. These are included in Evening Prayer on the final seven nights of Advent.
The Fifth "O" Antiphon O glorious Dayspring, come. The bright eternal light and sun of righteousness, on those who sit in darkness and death’s cruel shadow, shine.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke. Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; he has come to his people and set them free. He has raised up for us a mighty savior, born of the house of his servant David. Through his holy prophets he promised of old that he would save us from our enemies, from the hands of all who hate us. He promised to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant. This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to set us free from the hands of our enemies, free to worship him without fear, holy and righteous in his sight all the days of our life. You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins. In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace. Luke 1:68-79
When I walk my dog each morning, I am often greeted with a symphony of bird songs. The sun is about to rise, and our feathered friends are celebrating. Their joyful chorus is a blessing.
Years ago, it dawned on me – pardon the pun – that the birds were singing because the day had sprung. Unlike their human companions, the dayspring was greeted as if it was a surprise gift, a delightful one worth celebrating. In other words, the birds did not have the rational knowledge that the sun will come up the next morning. And so, the birds greet the beginning of the day with a beautiful song.
Imagine for the moment greeting each day as our feathered friends do. How beautiful our mornings would be! What hope would we have for the upcoming day, another opportunity to be truly present to the gifts the new day brings!
Speaking for myself I often deny the gift of the dayspring. Rather I let the concerns of the future or the mistakes of the past dominate my thoughts. Given the events of the past two years, we have all struggled with the darkness of the global pandemic so much so that it has been overwhelming.
However, the coming of Christ brings a message of hope. Light will come to our darkness and guide our lives in the way of peace. We are to wake up and celebrate the day and let the birth of Jesus kindle a fire within us. We are not alone; God is with us. May we shout with praise and joy each morning greeting the dayspring anew.
By Hobie Murnane
Lord God, fill our hearts with mercy and our minds with discernment so that our actions will be pleasing to you. May your peace, which surpasses all understanding, guard our hearts and minds. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.