O Oriens = The Dawn Breaking, the Light of the World
splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae:
veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.
O Morning Star,
splendour of light eternal and sun of righteousness:
Come and enlighten those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.
(Note: A literal translation of the Latin yields “O Rising Sun”, but the poetic “O Morning Star” or “O Dayspring” is often preferred.)
The phrase ‘O Oriens’ comes from Zach. 3: 8: τὸν δοῦλόν μου Ἀνατολήν and servum meum Orientem. This should be compared with the Hebrew tzemach. Isaiah had prophesied:
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined.” Isaiah 9:2
Also compare Isaiah 60:1-2 and Malachi 4:2 or Malachi 3:20 (Hebrew text)[Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, p. 1085]
O Earendel was the Old English poetic rendering of the Antiphon “O Oriens,” the fifth of the Great “O” Antiphons chanted in the seven days before Christmas Eve. It was an inspiration to J.R.R. Tolkien’s writings, and his poetic structure inspired the following poem.
Difficult these thoughts to render:
What have I received as son
From first father? Justice’s draining
Death and death’s dark toils begun.
From the second? Graces reigning;
Death of all the ills we’ve done.
Shining light of earthly splendor
Falls on everlasting hills:
Light of souls so brightly shining
Long set ‘neath the world of ills.
Still remains here children’s pining
Twilit intellects and wills
Setting light of ancient sages—
Souls who sought the Sun of God
And with gifts of grace enlight’ning
Many souls from sacred sod—
Even set in death they’re bright’ning
Us by their example awed.
Dimming light of later ages
Fast forgetting tree-born light
Or their glorious end forgetting
Losing fast our godly sight
In despair of His begetting
Thinking we have lost the fight
Our time’s heritage of hate
Ages of unending woe
Loss of wisdom, loss of seeing
Tattered banners circling go
Forfeiting our very being,
Falcons return to the foe.
Fading light of heav’nly grandeur
Darkened towards the close of day;
Souls forgetting whom we’re signing:
Sacraments, yet grow we grey
Think our progress we’re refining,
But forgetting how to pray.
Darkness falls upon our brothers
Hurling selves from heavenly height
Not as Jove of old decreeing
But their own destructive blight
Polypheman in their fleeing
Blinded by their own sad plight
Lost our view of right opinion
Lost in blustery winds our hearts
Lost while headlong rash we hurdling
Lost all sight of sun or stars
Lost while our blood space is curdling
Knowing not where we’ve begun
One the light beyond all others
Truth who never dims nor fades
Rising high and never setting
So ascended life he trades
Goodness towards whom all inclining
Beauty find as hell he raids.
Darkness death and death’s dominion
Die before this shining light
Who, our lowly form assuming,
Assume us to him and give back sight
To all on earth who not presuming
Knowledge seek this sun so bright.