By Sister Christine Schenk
I love Advent. It brings a special brand of hope and light to the darkest days of our calendar year. This sacred season of waiting and expectation is especially poignant now as our world holds its collective breath wondering if joy is even possible amid pandemic pain.
But that is the whole point of Advent. We hope despite the darkness. We hope, not because we can see light, but because we trust in another to be light for us.
That other is Jesus.
Tomorrow the church’s liturgy begins the “O” antiphons which are ancient refrains dating to the eighth century. From December 17-23, a different “O” antiphon is sung each day at Mass and in the church’s Evening Prayer. The antiphons weave biblical imagery from the Hebrew Scriptures into a lovely theological tapestry celebrating the messianic titles of Jesus and what they might mean—yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
These messianic titles are respectively, O Sapientia (O Wisdom), O Adonai (O Lord/Leader), O Radix Jesse (O Root of Jesse), O Clavis David (O Key of David), O Oriens (O Radiant Dawn/Dayspring), O Rex Gentium (O King of the Nations), O Emmanuel (O God-With-Us).
Several years ago, I reflected on the “O” antiphons and composed a prayer-poem (below) about what they might mean. For me, the coming of Jesus brings hope, comfort, light, and a peace that truly does “surpass all understanding” (Phil 4:7).
I invite you to take a bit of time and reflect on what the coming of Jesus might mean for you.
and Mary’s too,
bring us back to you.
set us free
of fear, despair,
O Justice Flower,
of Jesse tree,
uproot our hatreds.
Wash us clean
in just-reign waters,
plant us deep in Thee.
O Key of David,
open heaven’s gate
a captive people
too long enthralled
O Radiant Dawn,
light the way
of all who long
to preach, to teach,
of God’s indwelling.
strengthen weary arms,
steady trembling knees
bring surcease of sorrow.
O Advent Light,
dispel death’s dark shadow.
Awaken a waiting world
to life’s fresh-blessed tomorrow.
For more on the “O” antiphons and to read the original click here. Also, several years ago, the composer Joseph Gregorio set my prayer-poem to music. If you would like to listen, click here and select Advent Reflections I.
About the Author
Sister Christine Schenk has worked as a nurse midwife to low-income families, a community organizer, a writer, and the founding director of an international church reform organization, FutureChurch. Currently she writes an award-winning column “Simply Spirit” for the National Catholic Reporter.
Her book Crispina and Her Sisters: Women and Authority in Early Christianity (Fortress, 2017) was awarded first place in History by the Catholic Press Association.
11 thoughts on “We Hope Despite the Darkness”
beautiful message and lovely poem of O Antiphons & music! thank you Chris. B
Thank you, Chris! I love Advent, too, and I love poetry as well. Thanks for sharing your reflection; it expands my own reflection so maybe I will write a poem, too!
Thanks Maria! And I hope you do!
A beautiful and hopeful reflection-prayer ! Thanks, Lucy
Thank you Jane!
THANK YOU– TIME NOW TO WAIT FOR THE COMING OF JESUS —NOW———AGAIN WE SAY ‘ OH COME, OH COME , IMMANUEL RENEW THE FACE OF THE EARTH FOR US”! MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY 2021 TO ALL THE PEOPLE OF THIS WORLD! LISTEN! GOD’S VOICE WE HEAR:
‘ THIS IS MY BELOVED SON ———- LISTEN TO HIM”
Thank you for reading, Mary Jo!
There’s still plenty to be mined here in the Christmas season….when I’m reading it, Chris. Thank you! Lovely and true.
Thank you, Mary Jo!