O Morning Star,
splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
Today’s antiphon addresses Christ as the morning star, the rising sun, the dawn. Whichever translation is used, the image is one of the light of the sun turning the darkness of night into bright day. It echoes the words of Isaiah, who prophesied that ‘the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has the light shined’ (Isaiah 9.2). This light has the power to bring joy as well as justice, clarity as well as re-ordered relationships and peace. This light is intended to transform both individuals and institutions.
The prophet Malachi, in trying to convince the people of Israel of God’s continuing love for them, also speaks of the rising of ‘the sun of righteousness’ (Malachi 4.2), with a beautiful additional phrase made familiar in the final verse of the great carol ‘Hark, the herald-angels sing’: ‘Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness! Light and life to all he brings, risen with healing in his wings.’ The potentially dazzling light of the sun of righteousness comes not to blind, but to burn out and dissolve and so heal all that wounds or damages people and nations, all that prevents their flourishing and their right relationship with God.
In the New Testament, in the first chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus Christ is described as the Word, in whom ‘was life, and the life was the light of all people’ (John 1.4). Part of the enlightening action of this light was to reveal the true nature of Jesus as the Son of God and to make clear the possibility for all who believe in him also to become children of God. The light of Christ both enables a new way of being and reveals a new identity, an identity in which we are invited to share in the life of the Divine.
As we prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ, we are encouraged to step out of all the different kinds of shadows there may be in our lives that obscure the life of God in us — the shadows of hurt and disappointment, fading hope and growing despair, sin, loneliness, grief, regret. We are once again reassured of God’s ongoing, never-ending love for us, a love that is strong enough to overcome any kind of darkness.
By stepping into the light we turn our backs on the darkness and on our own ability to deceive and to be deceived, and place ourselves in a position to be shown more of who God is and more of who we are. As we open ourselves more and more to the light, and look more fully into the face of the sun of righteousness, all that is shadow in us is eventually dissolved and ultimately we ourselves become light.
Christina Rees is a member of the General Synod and Chair of Watch (Women and the Church).