Tag Archives: Advent

Shortness of days give testimony to someone Greater

Eternal LightThe solemn feast of the Son coheres with with the shortness of the cosmic days. Just yesterday we observed the first day of the winter solstice and also the Advent Ember Day. You might say that heaven and earth, the immaterial and material coalesce to point to something richer than any human thought can conceive.

The saints have something to say to us as a locus theologicus: concrete experience of the Incarnate Son of God leads to new ways of conceiving human existence. The saint bears witness to his or her Creator, the Savior of the world and therefore holds up for us a new and deeper way to understand the Divine Mystery.

One only has to meditate on the O Antiphons sung at the time of the Magnificat at Vespers to have a sense of divine action in history. But let’s return to a saint who makes a good connection with what you see out your window and what is placed in the heart, that is, who is given to us by the Almighty.

Saint Maximus of Turin: “Even if I were to keep silence, my friends, the season would warn us that the birthday of Christ our Lord is at hand. The year is coming to an end and forestalls the subject of my sermon. The depressing shortness of the days itself testifies to the imminence of some event which will bring about the betterment of a world urgently longing for a brighter sun to dispel its darkness. In spite of fearing that its course may be terminated within a few brief hours, the world still shows signs of hope that its yearly cycle will once more be renewed. And if creation feels this hope, it persuades us also to hope that Christ will come like a new sunrise to shed light on the darkness of our sins, and that the Sun of Justice, in the vigor of his new birth, will dispel the long night of guilt from our hearts. Rather than allow the course of our life to come to an end with such appalling brevity, we are confident that he will extend it by his powerful grace.”

O King of the Nations

O KING OF THE NATIONS and the Desired of all, You are the cornerstone binding the two [i.e., Jew and Gentile] into one: COME, and save poor man, whom You fashioned out of clay.

The following commentary adapted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Fr Pius Parsch (The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 1959):

Previous antiphons in this series stemmed from a Jewish background. The Messiah would be the fulfillment of Israel’s expectations, and Christians are the “wild vine” grafted onto the original vine of the Chosen People. In several of the antiphons, there are allusions to the conversion of the Gentiles, but this sixth antiphon is the first to address the Savior as “King of the nations and the Desired of ALL.” The reference to the “cornerstone” is to Isaiah 28:16, “Behold, I will lay a stone as the foundation of Zion, a tested stone, a cornerstone, precious and firmly set; if one believes, he will not be shaken.” On occasion, Christ called Himself the cornerstone (c.f. Matthew 21:42), indicating that He is the foundation, the spiritual support of the Church.

In our antiphon, however, the clause that follows indicates a function in reference to the Gentiles: the Messiah will be a cornerstone uniting both Jew and Gentile. This thought is from Ephesians 2:14, where Christ is called the peace-maker between Jew and Gentile, breaking down the wall of enmity between them.

The petition calls for the salvation of all humanity, which has its creation from the clay of the earth as a common bond. The antiphon should call all of us to work for the spread of the Gospel to all who have not yet heard it.

In his dreams Joseph responds to God

Silence of St Jospeh Ruberval MonteiroThis is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel, 
which means “God is with us.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home. (MT 1: 18-24)

Image: Silence of St Joseph by Ruberval Monteiro

O Dayspring

O DAYSPRING, Radiance of the Light eternal and Sun of Justice: COME,and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.

The following commentary adapted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Fr Pius Parsch (The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 1959):

Not sacred history but nature inspires today’s “O.” The sun as a symbol of Christ is one of the finest figures in Sacred Scripture and in the liturgy. And never is the metaphor more beautifully worded or more expressive of an entire season’s liturgy than in our present antiphon.

Three metaphors link the Redeemer to the sun:

(1) He is the Rising Dawn;

(2) He is the Radiance of the Light Eternal;

(3) He is the Sun of Justice.

The expression “rising dawn” (aka “dayspring”) occurs in Zechariah 3:8 and 6:12. Perhaps more familiar to Christians from its daily use in the Benedictus at Morning Prayer is the expression “Oriens ex alto,” the “dayspring from on high.” In spirit, the aged priest Zechariah beheld Christ rising as the sun “to enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.” The verse is incorporated in today’s “O.” Christ is the Rising Sun that disperses spiritual darkness and death. From the sun in the sky comes light and life; from Christ the divine Sun likewise comes light and life. Remember how Jesus called Himself the light and the life of the world.

The title “Radiance of the Light eternal” is found in Hebrews 1:3. It is a reference to the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. “Light eternal” is a reference to God the Father; “Radiance of the Light eternal” describes the eternal and consubstantial origin of the Son from the Father. In the Creed, we say, “Lumen de Lumine,” light from light. Thus the antiphon’s first phrase brought out Christ’s relation to the world and to men, while this second one tells of the inner divine relationship of Christ to the Father.

“Sun of Justice!” These words depict the Messiah in Malachi 4:2. Christ is the Sun, emitting the rays of justice (i.e., holiness and grace). What the sun does for the realm of nature, that Christ as the Sun of Grace does for the kingdom of God.

In the closing petition, we ask Christ to enlighten us by His birth. Even in us, the faithful, there is still much darkness, much of death’s shadow. Open your soul and let the divine light shine in!

O Key of David

O KEY OF DAVID and Scepter of the house of Israel: You open, and no man closes; You close, and no man opens. COME,and deliver him from the chains of prison who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death!

The following commentary adapted from The Church’s Year of Grace, Fr Pius Parsch (The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 1959):

Substantially, this passage is from Revelation 3:7, where Christ speaks of Himself as the “Key of David who opens and no one shuts; who shuts and no one opens.” But there is also a passage in Isaiah (22:22) which corresponds almost word-for-word with our antiphon. There the text is directed to the faithful civil ruler whom God supports: “I will lay the key of the house of David upon his shoulder. He will open and no one will shut; he will shut, and no one will open.” The symbol of handing over the keys denotes the conferral of supreme authority. Evidently St. John borrowed the passage from Isaiah and applied it to Christ, a precedent followed by the liturgy.

Being the son of David, Christ is heir and possessor of David’s keys (i.e., his kingdom). After His resurrection, He told His apostles, “All power is given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Lastly, the petition of this antiphon is somewhat more extended than on previous days. Christ holds the keys to the prison where humanity is enchained. Redemption is described graphically in this antiphon—captive mankind sits in darkness and in the black shadows of death. May Christ the Redeemer, we plead, come and unlock this prison.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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