O Antiphon | December 21
From December 17 through December 23, special antiphons known as the O Antiphons are chanted during the Liturgy of the Hours. As Father William Saunders explains, each of the O Antiphons refers to one of the titles of Jesus and the prophecies from Isaiah about the Messiah. During this week leading up to Christmas Eve, we will reflect on the O Antiphons and the scriptural sources that Fr. Saunders has identified.
O Radiant Dawn,
splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
come and shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the
shadow of death.
Today’s antiphon is filled with the hope that is so important to the Advent season. It refers to Isaiah’s prophecy, “The people who walk in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone” (Isaiah 9:2). Some translations say that a light “dawned” rather than “shone,” and this makes it even clearer that Jesus is this Dawn; He is the Light.
The idea of dwelling in darkness and the shadow of death is one that is all too familiar to many people today. Some people live in the darkness of loneliness, despair, sickness, or abandonment. Others live in a more literal shadow of death, being surrounded daily by violence and war. Being in the midst of this darkness can make us forget what the light even looks like.
But today’s antiphon gives us hope that shatters all darkness. God, who created night and day, has given us the Dawn of Jesus. This is not a dawn that will pass away into darkness—it is an eternal light. In coming to shine on us and save us, Jesus expels all darkness.