The Hope of Christ's Coming
Dec 19, 2018
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
On this Fourth Sunday of Advent, we draw near to the conclusion of the holy season. Hopefully, we have prepared for the coming of the Prince of Peace into our hearts and our families this Christmas.
Christmas Eve is one of my favorite days of the year. There are many happy memories of family traditions in the McDermott house. We were one of those families who opened presents on Christmas Eve. As a child, my father would take us downtown to see the Christmas lights in the windows at Famous-Barr later in the evening. My sisters and I would try not to fall asleep during the car ride. When we returned home, we saw many good things under the tree and in our stockings hanging from the mantle. There were good foods to eat, and I’m sure plenty of arguing to do as well. But it was all good fun. Most of all, it was indeed a holy night for us, which ended in us all going to Midnight Mass together, the highlight of the evening.
Another rich tradition at this holy time is the great “O” antiphons. These antiphons are sung with the Magnificat Canticle, which is sung each night by the Church at Vespers (evening prayer) from Dec. 17-23. For the last week, the Church has been singing these “O” antiphons. These ancient antiphons date back to the eighth century. The antiphons use images from the Old Testament that point to the hope of the coming of the Divine Messiah, Jesus Christ, as the fulfillment of all the hopes of all mankind.
The O antiphon for this final day before Christmas Eve calls to mind the Light of the Messiah. It says,
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.
The imagery points to Jesus as the light who will overcome the shadow of our sinfulness and our separation from our Heavenly Father. Jesus was sent by the Father to redeem us and draws our hearts back to His redeeming light. The Annunciation begins this great unfolding of our salvation; that holy night when Our Blessed Mother’s humble and courageous “yes” gave us the Radiant Dawn of our salvation. We now hope in the Sun of Justice who will come to us tomorrow evening. We have Christmas hope that the Christ Child, the Prince of Peace, will overshadow our hearts and the world in this Christmas time.
Fr. Aidan McDermott, O.S.B.