Monday, December 21, 2009

Come, Radiant Dawn, O Daystar (O Oriens); Welcome, Yule!

The Season of Light:
The Festival of Yule, the Winter Solstice
(Sun enters Capricorn at 11:46 AM CST)
The Christmas 'Novena', Day 5

The Word:
Song of Songs 2:8-14 ("My lover comes, springing across the mountains, leaping over the hills")
or Zephaniah 3:14-18 (The Lord your God is in your midst)
Psalm 33:2-3, 11-12, 20-21 (Exult, you just, in the Lord)
Luke 1:39-45 (Elizabeth: "Who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?)

Veni, Veni O Oriens!
Solare nos adveniens,
Noctis depelle nebulas,
Dirasque noctis tenebras.

Gaude, Gaude!
Emmanuel nascetur pro te, Israel!

O come, thou Day-star (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!

--O Come, O Come Emmanuel
(verse four)

Welcome, Yule!
It is no coincidence that the verse O Oriens falls on the day of the Winter Solstice. The northern European festival of Yule and the Roman festival of Saturnalia were both connected with the "rebirth" of the Sun, marking the end of decreasing daylight. When the celebration of "Christ's Mass" was instituted in the 3rd Century, the birth of the Son fell at the same time as the birth of the Sun. Christ is also described in ancient prayers and canticles as the "Morning Star that never sets."

There is no need to be afraid; on the fifth day our Lord will come to save us.
--Antiphon for Vespers (Morning Prayer) from the Divine Office

And for the next three days, the Sun will appear to remain in the southern sky, as daylight doesn't quite begin to increase.

Many of the customs associated with the ancient winter festivals have survived to this day. The burning of the Yule Log, and the singing of carols have long been associated with this day, and have also come to be associated with Christmas, even if it predates the Christian Era.

"He must increase, while I must decrease" (John 3:30).
This quote, attributed to John the Baptist and referring to Jesus, is also drawn from more ancient symbolism - the Oak King and Holly King. Each governs half of the year (the birth of John the Baptist occurs on June 24); the Oak King (Christ) rules the increase of the year, while the Holly King (John) influences the decrease, urging all to "prepare!"

There is much, much more to this special week than can be given time to compile. Suffice to know that each culture strives to seek out the Light, and the Source which bears it.

It is indeed "the most wonderful time of the year," even amidst the cold and snows of winter just beginning. This week, "Light sings, all over the world."

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