Today is the shortest day of the year, up here in the Northern Hemisphere. From today, the hours of daylight gradually increase, as people were well aware before the mixed blessings of electric light allowed us to forget we live in a world we only like to think we control.
The Church has long prayed on this day the antiphon ‘O Oriens’:
O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.
This verse of ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’ is not a direct translation but captures the spirit of the original, especially in lines three and four.
O come,Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
Of course we want the light, and would be far more lost in a power cut than our ancestors were in days gone by. And we pray ‘God from God, Light from Light’ in the Creed, perhaps without thinking too much about it.
For a surprising view, let’s turn to our old friend, William Blake; Auguries of Innocence includes these lines, which I leave you to digest.
God Appears & God is Light
To those poor Souls who dwell in Night,
But does a Human Form Display
To those who Dwell in Realms of day.