Thursday, December 29, 2016

5th Day of Christmas: God Is Light

God Is Light, And In Him Is No Darkness (1 John 1:5)

    Today is the 5th Day of Christmas, we're almost at the mid-point of the Twelve Days (although not, strictly speaking, of the Christmas Season). Our Sunday Visitor has published a pamphlet which I ran across at our cathedral that offers suggestions on how to keep the Twelve Days. The writers of the pamphlet recommend the following for the 6th Day, but since tomorrow is the Feast of the Holy Family this year, I propose moving it to today, the 5th. They suggest lighting all the candles on your Advent Wreath  and praying the antiphon from December 21st:

           O Radiant Dawn, splendor of Eternal Light,
        Sun of Justice;
        Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness
        And the shadow of death.

The Advent Wreath has become a Christmas Wreath - Fiat Lux!

    Now, in our home we replace the pink and purple advent candles with red ones on Christmas Day, so the candles are already in place. As for the prayer, I would prefer not to use one of the “O Antiphons”, since they are so closely connected to Advent.  I understand why they make the suggestion, however, because at this point in the Christmas season it is appropriate to start extending our joy at the coming of Jesus to contemplation of Who and What He is.  The identification of the Messiah with Light is deeply embedded in the Tradition, as in the well-known passage from Isaiah that also figures prominently in our observance of Advent:

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. (Isaiah 9:2)

We also see it in the opening of John’s Gospel, as a part of what is perhaps the most important New Testament passage for understanding Jesus Christ:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5)

Light has also been a big part of our liturgical practices, as anyone who has attended the Easter Vigil can attest, and this also goes back to the beginning: from the earliest days of the Church, the priest has traditionally celebrated Mass ad orientem, “toward the rising (Sun)” (which, sadly, is most often no longer done in the Ordinary Form of the Mass; please feel free to see my recent post on this topic, "Darmok and Jalod Ad Orientem").  Not coincidentally, in the antiphon quoted above, the English words “O Radiant Dawn” are a translation of the Latin O Oriens.
    You may notice our texts and tradition spend more time and effort telling us that Christ is Light than in explaining how and why. There are certainly connections that spring to mid immediately: darkness is emptiness, sin, despair, death; light is abundance, purity, love, life.  But these only scratch the surface, and we often come to a true understanding of something, by working with it, and by wrestling with it in our minds.  I propose that we observe this 5th Day of Christmas by praying over the passages of Scripture above (and others like them), by lighting up our Christmas candles, and by thinking about the ways in which Christ is light.  We could think about what that means for us and for our lives, and how we make that a reality for others.
    Merry Christmas!

The Twelve Days of Christmas 2016

1st Day:

May God bless you on the Feast of the Nativity of the Lord: “Merry Christmas! Of The Father’s Love Begotten” (Principium et Finis)

Christus Natus Est, Alleluiah!Merry Christmas! The First Noel(Nisi Dominus)

2nd Day:

Christmas transcends worldly concerns: “The 2nd Day of Christmas & O Holy Night (Hayley Westenra)(Principium et Finis)

Following in the Master’s footsteps - “2nd Day of Christmas: St. Stephen & Good King Wenceslas(Nisi Dominus)

3rd Day:

Standing at the foot of the Cross: “3rd Day of Christmas: St. John the Apostle“ (Principium et Finis)

The Christmas Season is still young! “3rd Day of Christmas: Joy To The World!

4th Day:

With God, all things are possible: “4th Day of Christmas: Holy Innocents & Babies Saved By Christmas Carols” (Nisi Dominus)

The Death of the Holy Innocents, and the death of Holy Innocence: “4th Day of Christmas: Holy Innocents” (Principium et Finis)