The darkness of winter is so hard on the human spirit. Whoever came up with the idea of moving the celebration of Christ's birth into the depths of December from its more likely March time frame -- the season when Jesus was likely actually born, as shepherds were in the fields assisting at the births of their lambs -- should be commended. We need something to celebrate in this yearly darkness, something to unite us and lift our spirits when darkness and violence overcome too many souls, all seems bleak, and light is dim.
And we need words of hope. Which is why I love the O Antiphons that are found in the ancient prayer of the church. You know, the ones heard when we sing, O come O come Emmanuel. Every year, the antiphons arrive just in time for the darkest days. But the version I really like is the newer, more inclusive one below, which is taken from the People's Companion to the Breviary, Volume One (1997, Carmelites of Indianapolis, ISBN 1-8886873-09-7).
Words of hope in the darkness, one set at a time, prayed from tomorrow until December 23rd... but I'll pray them all together this week. Pray with me?
O Wisdom, Holy Word of God, you reach from one end of the earth to the other with providential and tender care. Come and teach us to live in your ways.You who are unity, love, and life, remove from our hearts and our world the division, fear and violence that splinters your beautiful creation. Make us one.
O Adonai and Leader of the house of Israel, who appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush and gave him your Law on Sinai, come and free us with your outstretched arm.
O Root of Jesse, you stand as a sign for all people. Before you rulers keep silence; from you all nations seek help. O come to free us and do not make us wait.
O Key of David and Scepter of the house of Israel, you open and no one shuts. You close and no one opens. Come and deliver us from the prisons that hold us, for we are seated in darkness, oppressed by the shadows of death.
O Rising Sun, splendor of Eternal Light and brilliant Sun of Justice, come and light up the darkness concealing from us the path to life.
O Ruler of all nations and true desire of our hearts! You are the cornerstone binding us all into a home for God. Come and free us whom you formed from earth.
O Emmanuel, Giver of a new law to all nations, come and save us, for you are our God.
Come Lord Jesus, come!