O Oriens A Fifth Advent reflection

The fifth ‘great ‘O’ antiphon in my Advent Anthology from Canterbury Press Waiting on the Word calls on Christ as the ‘Oriens’, the Morning Star, the Dayspring, and it comes as an answer to the sense of darkness and captivity in the fourth antiphon, O Clavis‘ I find the idea of Christ as rising light in the East very moving, for he is Alpha, the ‘Beginning’. The Translation which gives ‘Dayspring’ for Oriens I especially love, both because ‘Dayspring’ suggests at one and the same time, both light and water, two primal goods in life which I love in combination, especially light reflected on water, and also because ‘Dayspring’ was the name of a ship my great grandfather built for Scottish missionaries and also the name of the little gaff cutter, from whose deck I saw the dawn rise after a long period of darkness. Many of these senses of ‘Dayspring’ are at play in the sonnet I have given below. I should also mention that the line from Dante means “I saw light in the form of a river’ another touchstone moment for me in the Paradiso You can hear me read this poem by clicking on the title or the play button. The image above was created by Lancia Smith. you can see this and more on her  excellent Website Cultivating the True the Good and the Beautiful.. You can find you can find the words, and a short reflective essay on this poem in Waiting on the Word, which is now also available on Kindle

O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae,
et sol justitiae:
veni, et illumina sedentes
in tenebris, et umbra mortis

O Dayspring,
splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

O Oriens

E vidi lume in forme de riviera Paradiso XXX; 61

First light and then first lines along the east
To touch and brush a sheen of light on water
As though behind the sky itself they traced

The shift and shimmer of another river
Flowing unbidden from its hidden source;
The Day-Spring, the eternal Prima Vera.

Blake saw it too. Dante and Beatrice
Are bathing in it now, away upstream…
So every trace of light begins a grace

In me, a beckoning. The smallest gleam
Is somehow a beginning and a calling;
“Sleeper awake, the darkness was a dream

For you will see the Dayspring at your waking,
Beyond your long last line the dawn is breaking”.


Filed under imagination, literature, Meditation

13 responses to “O Oriens A Fifth Advent reflection

  1. Carys Walsh

    Hi there – looking forward to it! Not sure we’ll make it before 7 but will let you know if it looks likely.


    Carys Walsh 07931 750526


  2. Pingback: Dayspring from on high, draw near… | North of the border

  3. Richard King

    Thank you so much for all your emails and writings. Many blessings on you and yours for this season of grace and God;s favour. In Matthew 2 verse 13 it says ” Stay there until I tell you” I feel these words are not just to Joseph but to us all. God is speaking and we need to listen more and act wisely. be blessed Malcolm Richard

  4. Mike in Pennsylvania

    The poem reminds me of Hopkins’ “God’s Grandeur”:
    And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward springs–
    I’ve kept this poem, with Hopkins’ “Peace” in my wallet for years to read over when the black dog barks. I’ll now place “O Clavis” and “O Oriens” there, too.

  5. I absolutely love this. Dayspring, my Morning Star, bows cutting through the water to greet the new dawn. What a sense of an adventure to come! The rest will be in my Advent diary! Thank you fir such awakenings Malcolm 💜

  6. Pingback: Advent Diary – 21st December 2015 | twiff13

  7. Hi Malcolm,

    I pray you are well. I was with C.S. Lewis Oxbridge in summer 2014. John Dickson is my mentor/teacher and I am well acquainted with JAC Redford. I am considering using the O Oriens poem as part of a reading during an upcoming choral concert. However I am wondering in which poem did William Blake speak of the day-spring. I am just trying to solidify my context.

    Best Regards,
    Chris Rosborough

    • malcolmguite

      Hi. There is no specific poem about the day Spring but there is a painting called ‘glad day’. I was thinking more of Blake simply as a visionary. The other specific is that Blake illustrated the passage in the Paradiso in which Dante and Beatrice encounter the river of light

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