'O Rising Sun, you are the splendour of eternal light and the sun of justice: come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow
"Our darkness is a prison: yesterday we asked the Key of David to come and open the prison doors. Today we say that we are imprisoned in darkness: so we ask the Dayspring, the brightness of eternal light, the sun of righteousness, to come and shine on us... The trouble with darkness is that nothing appears for what it really is. Everything gets out of proportion. We lose our sense of direction and our feeling for whether things are near or distant, and indeed our capacity to judge what a thing is... The dark may give us ersatz emotions and disproportionate reactions to sounds, so that we are falsely frightened or falsely relieved. It is appropriate that the theatre of illusion should normally require its audience to sit in darkness, so that they can be transported into an unreal world where they forget one another and look only at the unreality of what is presented from outside. And so we pray for light: 'O Oriens!' If light is a well-nigh universal symbol for divinity, the element proper to God or the gods, what is proper to Christ our Lord is the new light, the dawn, the light of the east, the light of the sun at its rising.
Before it was know that 'Jesus' would be the name of the Christ it was known that the Messiah would be the Dawn, the Orient, the Rising Day, for he would be newness and novelty. 'Behold I will bring my Servant, the Orient, the Dawn,' God says through the prophet Zechariah; 'Behold the man whose name is the Orient, the Rising Day, for he shall raise up in his place, and he will build the temple of the Lord.' And when the immediate forerunner of Jesus was born, another Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied saying: 'Through the loving kindness of our God, the Dayspring shall visit us from on high, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.'
Day by day, dawn by dawn, we take up those words of the father of John the Baptist and we sing them with him in the canticle of Lauds, the Benedictus. It is a canticle with a strange and intricate structure of words and phrases, weaving in and out with the pattern of a dance. The message of this chant is not openly declared in the words themselves, for it lies hidden also in the way the words are used, in their positioning. This is all of a piece with how St Luke, in whose Gospel the Benedictus appears, sees human history, not as just a succession of events but, rather, a meaningful pattern which he invites us to enter. In St Luke's pattern our present situation is the fulfilment of the promises of the past but in its turn it carries the promise of the future. The promises of the Old Testament have been fulfilled in us who live in the time of Christ. Therefore we trust that the promises of our own time will be fulfilled in their turn in the time of Christ's Advent, when the Kingdom of God finally comes in power. We are shepherds and guardians of the future as well as recepients of the fulfilled promises of the past. All that is figured in the Benedictus. Each morning we are invited to see the sun that is rising over our world that day as a pledge of the reality of the Sun that rose the first Easter morning, rose after he had set in blood, after he had been down in the depths of the earth. This day which is just beginning is a day when the resurrection of Jesus can be lived out in our lives. But the rising day is itself the pledge, promise and prophecy of the Dawn that will rise over the world on the day of the great and general resurrection, the Dawn of that Day that will never end. Today we can live risen lives that will be pledges of the life we shall lead in that first Day which will be an eternal Day. We should live our lives quite consciously between this past and this future, and in the light of this Day which is rising to give light to those who have been sitting in darkness. And that means to all those who find life obscure, who cannot get things into proportion.
If we are ever to move towards that future which we are promised, the best way of moving from the place where we are now is to open our sails and let the wind of the Holy Spirit come and blow us some place else. If the way Christian righteousness exceeded that of the scribes and pharisees were by there being more things for us to do and to avoid, that would not be very much a gospel, a good news. But before Jesus is a lawgiver he is, as we say, the Sun of righteousness itself. He is the one whom Malachi prophesied: 'Unto you that fear my name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings'. Wings, because the sun seems to fly through the heavens like a great bird; wings, as the sun-disk is winged in Egyptian monuments. The light that the rising sun of the day of Adonai brings is a light that heals, opening the eyes of the blind. He brings healing just because he is the very justice of God. God's justice is not God conforming himself to some eternal standard of justice but a reality that God creates by adjusting us to himself and to each other. Our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and pharisees only in that we accept such 'justification', the way God has done things for us and for other people."
- Geoffrey Preston, OP, 'Hallowing the Time'.