Saturday, December 21, 2013

O Radiant Dawn... come

[This post is fifth in a series of Advent meditations, exploring the "O Antiphon" for each day as we walk the final steps toward the celebration of the incarnation on the Feast of the Nativity of our Lord.]

Radiant Dawn,
splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:
shine on those 
lost in the darkness of death!

The night is a strange place. I've never been on a job that required me to work third-shift, the closest I ever got was several nights working late closing restaurants or bars. I've also (thankfully) always been a pretty decent sleeper, but every now and then I wake up in the middle of the night and can't fall asleep.

"O Dayspring"
Sister Ansgar Holmberg, CSJ
The worst is when this happens in the context of a night terror. I began having these when I was an adolescent, experiences of waking from a sound sleep with an overwhelming sense of dread, very similar to a panic attack. They generally last around thirty minutes, or until I can calm down enough to fall back asleep, but sometimes they drag on, keeping me wide awake and fearful.

My wife is a light sleeper, she also wakes up in the night, though not with panic attacks. Instead, she starts worrying about things and before she knows it she is wide awake, worrying about this or that, unable to shut her mind off, close her eyes, and drift back to sleep.

The first day I ever went deer hunting, I walked in the dark woods out to a small land-blind I had scouted out earlier in the day. I remember sitting on a small stool there, watching the colors around me change as the sun slowly came up. It's still my favorite part of deer hunting—sitting in a blind or in a tree stand and watching the world around you come alive.

It reminds me that no matter how powerful night may seem—it is never permanent.

Where I live, Advent always falls during a dark time of the year. Singing about daylight falling and vesper lights arising in Evening Prayer absolutely makes sense at 5:15pm. And I've had people I loved who struggled with seasonal depression because of it, who struggled with the loss of light and how that can mess with your body.

But the night is not as powerful as it seems.

And I find it rather powerful that it was in the dead of night that a single cry pierced the night. After Mary's cries of childbirth, another cry came, that of God incarnate entering this world through blood and sweat and tears... and even societal shame.

I like to think that when God's voice pierced the darkness in the cry of a little baby boy, night itself shivered.

And I wonder, beloved of God, what night seems to cover your own heart? Can you look to the edges and see that color beginning to change? The sun is coming up as the son approaches. Dawn is almost here. And the night will never again be as powerful as it once seemed.

O come, thou Dayspring from on high, 
and cheer us by they drawing nigh;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death's dark shadow put to flight.

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