O Oriens A Fifth Advent reflection with music

Image by Linda Richardson

Image by Linda Richardson

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 Linda Richardson. She writes:

How often do you hear the word ‘Dayspring’ used in common parlance? It is such a beautiful word meaning ‘dawn’. Here it is in Luke 1:76-79: ‘And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways… whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.’ (King James Version)

I laboured over this small painting using acrylic paint, ink and watercolour to try to get that ephemeral light that only a very few astronauts have ever seen with their own eyes. The great blue Earth turns away from the darkness of the void and is lit by the Sun, the archetype of God, and Malcolm’s poem is so full of expectant joy and peace – ‘the darkness was a dream’. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin says, ‘ We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience’.

You can find you can find a short reflective essay on this poem in Waiting on the Word, which is now also available on Kindle

I am also glad that Jac Redford has given me permission to share his beautiful setting of this poem. So the first of the ‘play’ buttons below gives you JAC’s choral setting and the second gives you the plainsong antiphon, and me reading the poem.

O Oriens: 

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”.

6 Comments

Filed under imagination, literature, Meditation

6 responses to “O Oriens A Fifth Advent reflection with music

  1. Jessica

    Wonderful! And opened for me new depths of meaning in this amazing Antiphon

  2. Melanie Wells

    Thank you, Malcolm. These daily posts are such a gift. They never fail to inspire me and encourage me and bring the presence of Emanuel, the Ancient of Days, the Dayspring into my heart and day. I am an American who recently fell in love with an Englishman so I am living here in the north of England now. My mother was English and met my American father during WWII. She was actually born just a few miles from where I’m now living. So I feel I’ve completed the circle of her journey and I feel as if I’ve come home. I discovered you when I was searching for something about C.S.Lewis and stumbled on your beautiful tribute to him and loved it. He is my favorite author. So thank you for your lovely place in my spiritual journey. God bless you and happiest of Christmases. ~Melanie

    • malcolmguite

      Thanks Melanie. Our two countries are interwoven in subtle ways by stories just like yours and your mother’s. I’m glad you’re enjoying the sonnets

  3. Marianne Allison

    This is beautiful. This helped me remember that for the faithful, lack of hope is a kind of denial, a retreat–a sleep. This is not to say we must embrace optimism–for in fact the objective reality may be that the things of this world are truly grim, and, for a time, getting grimmer. But the belief that the grimness around us wins, or is the ultimate truth, is what has been obscured by our sleep, for hope is what we have in Christ.

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