Wednesday, December 21, 2011

O Oriens

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

O Morning Star,
splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

Pre-industrial people were far more connected to the natural cosmos and seasons than we are today, and were very aware that today is the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, and not really the death of the sun—but its rebirth! The liturgical year was easily connected to the seasons of nature. The Latin word was Oriens, also translated “The Dayspring” (see Luke 1.78), and used as an image of Jesus, the Rising Son/Sun who is always leading us into the future horizons of time and history.

[The somewhat artificial date for Jesus' birthday was chosen to be December 25, because it was not until a few days after this that early astronomers could assess the rebirth of the sun, and so this became the Roman celebration of the birth of the sun and for Christians—Jesus' birth day!]

So go outside on this shortest day of the year (or longest if you live in Australia, New Zealand, Bangalore, or Singapore!), and know that whatever it appears to be, it is about to change! But who would suspect? The great change is totally hidden from us because we are still inside of it and too close to it.

Richard Rohr, December 2011

The people who walked in darkness
   have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
   on them light has shined.

(Isaiah 9.2 )

…for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.

(Malachi 4.2)

We cannot know what God is doing—his ways are not our ways, and his paths are beyond understanding. But God is faithful and just, slow to anger and full of compassion and steadfast love. If only we would trust him!

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