O Oriens,
splendor lucis aeternae,
et sol justitiae:
veni, et illumina
sedentes in tenebris,
et umbra mortis.

Biblical Ref.  ZC 3-8;  GER 23-5; SAP: 7-26; MAL 3-20; IS 9-1; LC 1-79

In the fourth antiphon Jesus is qualified as “Orient, Eternal Light Brightnessand , Justice sun”.
     The first title, got from the prophet Zachariah’s book (3-8; 6-2) has a very complicated history which is reminded for understanding its meaning. The prophet named “sprout” the crowned servant  going to be introduced by God for bringing peace and rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem. The Greek version fo the Bible of “Seventy” translated the Ebraic word as “anatolé”, meaning  “rising star” and “sprout” at one time. St Girolamus, in the Latin transslation of the Bible, has written “Oriens”, “rising sun”. We find this word also in the hymn “Benedictus”, where John’s the Baptist Fatheer, Zachariah says: “ We have been visited by a sun rising high ( visitavit nos Oriens ex alto).
     The messianic meaning of Zachariah is guaranted at first by  the prophet Geremy , who writes that God will give a right sprout, able to reign as a true king; He will  be wise, He will apply the Law and Justice in the world (GER 25-5). After the prophet , Luca, in his Evangile, confirms the same concept.
      “Eternal Light Brightness” (Splendor Lucis Aeternae) comes out from the Book of Wisdom in the ancient translation into Latin, where the “Eternal Light” is “the Eternal Light Reflex, a Mirror without any spot, showing God’s action and His Kindness” (SAP: 7-26) In the later translation, the ‘Vulgata’, the Wisdom is qualified “candor lucis aeternae”, Eternal Light Withness. The Eternal Light belongs to God, God Almighty: Origene, in his book. “Principii” (1-2-10), literalizes it as Father’s Son, guaranting the Christological meaning of this sapiential title.
    The third title, ‘Justice Sun’ (sol iustitiae), is got from prophet Malachi announcing the Lord’s day (3-20): “ As an oven. Then all the arrogants and those oing injustice will be as the straw; in that very day they will be burnt- the army’s God says- and they will not leave any root nor sprout. To you, at the contrary, you, lovers of my name, the justice sun will rise, with its beneficial rays and you will come out jumping as calfs from the stable” (ML 3, 19-20). In a third century text, wrongly assigned to Cipriano, and many Curch Fathers, Christ is Justice Sun, and this assimilation helps to connect the Christmas Day to the winter solstice.
   The three titles given to Jesus turn towards the light, tipical Christmas subject, about what all Christmas Liturgy drives. During the midnight Mass we pray: “ God, you lighted this holy night with Christ’s brightness, true Light of the world…” In the responsorial psalm we repeat the theme: “ Today the light shines on us. In the Evangile, during the night Mass, it is written:” Today a glorious Light came on this world”. In the December 29 th Collect, we say :” O God, Invisible and Eternal, You lighted our darkness by Christ, true Light”. The light comes again in the second Sunday after Christmas Collect : “ God Almighty, Eternal, belivers’ Light…show Yourself to all the nations in Your Truth Brightness”. In January the fourth, Jesus is appealed “new Light at the horizon; and we pray:” Let’hope to see It shining again in all our life” . The theme “new light” is also considered on the 7th January, and the Epiphany fills with comet light, leading the three wise men towards Jesus” (MT 2-1; 12)
     Christmas is the Light Event in the Evangile. When Luca talks about Angel appearing to the shepherds who were looking after their sheep in the holy night, exibited himself and Lord’s Glory wrapping them with the light. (LC 2-9)
     John , in his Evangile prologue, thinking over the Nativity, affirms:” The true Light came on  the world, the light enlightening all the men” (GV 1-9) and the old Simeon describes Baby Jesus “Light for lightening the people” (LC 2-32). Le crosses the entiere Evangile since the beginning of public Christ’s Mission, when the people , plunged in the dark, saw the Light: a Light rose on the people living in the dark and in death shadow” (MT 4-16)
      The light is in the parables and similitudes for revealing the kingdom of heaven’s secrets , in the Transfiguration  when Jesus’ face “ shined as a sun and  His dress became white as the light” (MT 17-2), till the Resurrection announced by shining angels (MT 28-5; MC 16-6; LC 24-4).
     We find the most important rise in  John’s Evangile, Where Jesus Himself says:” I am the Light to this world.  Who follows me does not walk in the darkness, and he will get the life litght ( GV 8-12).
     For weel understanding these Jesus’ words, we have to remind Moses coming back from the Mount with the Tables of the Law; He was shining for he had been talking with God (ES 34-29-30; 34-35) and the Israelits were scared of getting closer to him : But Jesus is The Light Hitself, as He is “ God from God, Light, from Light” and St John writes, in his first letter: “ God is Light and there is no darkness in Him” (GV 1-5).
     For this reason, the Apocalypse Book let’s Jesus say:” I am th brighting morning star” (AP 22-6) and the Liturgy inthe Easter Vigil Praeconium sings “ The star which never set”.
     Jesus Oriens is the Light rising at Christmas, is the God’s new day, going to offer the new Jerusalem, lighted by The Lamb Himself’s Light ,to everybody (AP 21-23) He will come, at the end of the world, as a bolt from East lighting up to West” (MT 24-27).  



©2009 - Pontifical Council for Social Communications