O Oriens, splendor lucis æternæ, et sol justitiæ: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.
O rising sun, you are the splendour of eternal light and the sun of justice. O come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death.
The shortest day of the year has the antiphon relating to light. From today, light will slowly and, at first, imperceptibly grow day by day. In the same way, the light who is Christ is growing in our consciousness.
Christ as the light of the world, is the true Sun who enlightens all who bask in his rays and acknowledge him as the Lord. He is likened in the antiphon to three aspects of the sun, the rising sun, the splendour of eternal light, the sun of justice. The expression of rising sun, or dayspring, is proclaimed in the Benedictus of Zachariah in Luke’s gospel when he gains the power of speech after being struck dumb. He says that God will “bring the Rising Sun to visit us” Christ is that rising sun that disperses spiritual darkness and brings light and life.
The “splendour of eternal light” points to the origin of all things – God who dwells in eternal light. In the creed each week we proclaim that Jesus is the “light from light” so whilst the first image points to the relation of Jesus to all people, this points backwards to his divine origin as the only begotten son. Finally he is the Sun of Justice from the prophecy of Malachi “but for you who fear my name the sun of justice shall rise with healing in his wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.” The Lord when he comes will give rays of holiness and grace that links to the petition, that we be enlightened to be freed from darkness and all that holds us back, so that we may have life and light and love and experience the righteousness of the Lord.