O Oriens: Meditations on the O Antiphons

Travel, jet lag, and holiday activities predictably demolished my plans to keep up with Advent 2014. So now, after Epiphany, I resume my series on the O Antiphons.

The fifth O Antiphon is to the Rising Dawn.

O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae,
et sol justitiae:
veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris,
et umbra mortis.

O rising one, splendor of eternal light,
and sun of justice:
come, and illuminate those sitting in darkness,
and the shadow of death.

This antiphon shows Christ to be light and enlightener. O Clavis David showed us his descent. Now the image reverses, and we see that the descent of Christ in the incarnation is also an ascent.

The Latin oriens is the root of our word “oriental.” It is literally “rising [one],” usually indicating the east, the dawn, or the rising sun. Nevertheless, there is a tradition of rendering oriens here “morning star,” which is within the range of possible meanings, as in the Old English poem based on this antiphon, Eala earendel. The morning star, Venus, is the harbinger of the dawn; Christ takes this name for himself in Revelation 22:16 (see also 2 Peter 1:19 and Revelation 2:28).

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