21 December 2016

A Still Unknown God


Today's readings:

  • Song of Solomon 2:8-14
  • Luke 1:39-45

In the Douay, the RSV, or in the NABRE with other Mass texts.

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.

For some curious reason the Alleluia in our daily Mass text is not based on this Antiphon, which is (as proper) sung nevertheless tonight at Vespers. So we'll stick with it.

I noted yesterday that these two antiphons were of a pair: about being freed from darkness and brought into the light. It is fitting that they should be read on either side of the Winter Solstice, the Longest Night, the night the sun traditionally "returns". As that sun returns the texts celebrates the real return, the real sunrise: the Sun of Justice, Jesus, dawning on his people.

Yesterday I pointed out our self-imposed entrapment in darkness. Even though the Sun rises on us, we clamp our eyes shut to pretend we are not illuminated.

If we were to open our eyes, what would we see?

Jesus is the Omega point towards which all of history constantly tends. If we were to see it clearly, we'd understand that, of course Jesus was born at the Winter Solstice. Naturally he dies at the Spring Equinox. Of course his mother is named for the Seas. Nature is the first Gospel we have, written in signs and regular processions of events. Those cultures that came closest to the natural order were ready for Christ. It is said the Celts converted easily because Jesus' Gospel made sense to the Druids once it was explained. Yet not only those who "worshipped nature" but also the pagans of Greece and Rome, the Taoists of China, the Shintoists of Japan, the peoples of India, Central and South America all heard in the Gospel some reality that was prefigured in their faith.

The Jews were prepared to bring forth Messiah and all peoples were prepared to receive him. The light dawns in the East and it covers all the world.

So, for us in our darkness. What is this to us?

As it was in the time of the Apostles so it is for us now. Having received it freely, we are called to freely spread the light. Think of Paul in the Marketplace of Athens, talking to the people who worship "the unknown God". Paul was able to find a seed of truth in that Athenian temple from which he could grow a Gospel sermon. How do we do that today? Do you know how to address someone with the Gospel starting from where they are, lost in idolatry, in magic, in sex, in politics? Can you preach the Gospel using words crafted by Oprah, Ouija, or Oral Roberts? Who is the evangelist for the Black, the Grey, or the Pink Panthers? Can you bring the light into the darkness that we have today? Who will go to the people of the Gamers or the Goths? Can you bring Christ to those lost in the New Age, or in the tired old teachings of Spong or Tyson? Do you know the Gospel for the internet- or porn- addicted? Who will find the abortionists and suicide doctors? Can you preach to those trapped in racism and hate? How can you bring Jesus to those whom you do not love?

The Dayspring from on high is come to give us the light to reach the world today, to enlighten those trapped in darkness and death. In what function will we shine this light? If we are freed who were trapped in prisons of our own making, what can we do for those around us still enslaved?