Day 9: Monday

Monday: Day 9


The O Antiphons,

These seven prayers sung each day beginning on December 17 and ending on December 23 along with the Magnificat, are among the richest treasures of Advent.  They remind us that Christ, whose glorious return we anticipate and patiently await during Advent, is surrounding and sustaining us already. He is truly Emmanuel, “God among us,” for he is at once the wisdom who creates and orders the universe, the lawgiver who establishes righteousness through Israel and the Church, the redeemer who has overcome death and rescued his creation from sin, and the great king who is drawing his children from every nation and restoring them in love.
Today’s antiphon is reflected in the Benedictus. The first part of the canticle, a song of thanksgiving for the coming of the Redeemer, finds an appropriate place
The allusion to Christ’s coming under the figure of the rising sun “O Rising Dawn,” is believed to have influenced Benedict’s choice. The beauty of these antiphons is stunning; their reference to Old Testament prophesy concerning the coming of Christ is even more stunning. 


Today’s O Antiphon for December 21 is:


O Rising Dawn, Radiance of the Light eternal and Sun of Justice: come and enlighten those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.


Isaiah 9:1: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone”.

Malachi 3:20: “For you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays”.

2 Peter 1:19: “Keep your attention closely fixed on it, as you would on a lamp shining in a dark place, until the first streaks of dawn appear and the morning star rises in your heart”.


This title is variously translated “morning star”, “Dayspring”, “rising sun”, “radiant dawn”, “orient”. All beautifully express the idea of light shattering the darkness of night, of sin and death, of sickness and despair, with its brightness bringing healing and warmth to cold hearts. Jesus is indeed the true light, the radiance of his Father’s splendor. The church prays this petition daily in the Benedictus, joining in the words of Zechariah: “He, the Dayspring, shall visit us in his mercy to shine on those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Luke 1:78-79).

zachary annunciation


Niccolo di Giacomo (c. 1325 – c. 1403) (known also as Niccolò da Bologna)
Gabriel announces to Zacharias

From Missal said to be of Clément VII and Urban VTempera, gold, and ink on parchment
c. 1370


Read the Scripture Passage, Zachariah’s Benedictus (Luke 1:68-79) again slowly and prayerfully. Listen with the “ear of your heart” and Reflect. Let an attitude of quiet receptiveness permeate your reading. What phrase, sentence or even one word stands out to you? Be attentive to what speaks to your heart. Allow that phrase or word to settle deeply in your heart. Think

about what it means for you.


  • What Phrase or Word stands to you? Note this in your journal.
  • Imagine yourself in Zachariah’s place. How does the word of phrase that stands out to you speak to you as you stand in Zachariah’s shoes? Your own shoes?
  • In what ways is Jesus shining light on your heart (O Rising Dawn, come and enlighten me) through Zachariah’s example?


The first theme we will explore from the Benedictus is not specifically referred to in Zachariah’s hymn, but provides the context for it

: the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:67) in believers. 

For Luke, this theme is prominent, as is indicated from the primary role of Pentecost in his narrative, and many examples of the Holy Spirit’s work in the lives of Jesus’ followers. The following references to the Holy Spirit may be found in Luke, and serve to illustrate the various and permeating uses of this theme throughout Luke’s Gospel:
  • “baptized with the Holy Spirit,” Luke 3:16; Acts 1:5; 11:16)
  • “through the Holy Spirit,” Acts 1:2; 4:25; 11:28; 21:4)
  • “I will pour out My Spirit,” Acts 2:17, 18,33; 10:45)
  • “receive the Holy Spirit,” Acts 8:15; 10:44; 11:15)
  • “receive the Holy Spirit,” Acts 8:15,17,19; 10:47;19:2)
  • “the Holy Spirit said,” Acts 8:29; 10:19; 11:12; 13:2)
  • “Spirit” used to refer to the Holy Spirit, Luke 2:27; 4:1,14; Acts 2:4; 6:3,10; 8:18,29; 10:19; 11:12,28; 16:16,18; 20:22; 21:4)


Commentators have also noticed a great connection between the Holy Spirit and prayer in Luke, a connection that is present from the very beginning in the narratives and hymns. David Jeffrey in his book,
, writes:


“The theme of prayer and answered prayer is evident from the beginning in the annunciation and nativity narratives peculiar to Luke: Zachariah’s prayer is answered (1:13), Simeon’s prayer is a prominent prayer of grateful benediction (2:22-28), and the poems of both Mary and Zacharias (her Magnificat and his Benedictus) are highlights of Luke 1. When at his baptism Jesus prays, the heavens open and the dove of the Holy Spirit descends (3:21-22); when Jesus prays from the cross, the temple veil is rent from top to bottom (23:44-46).”


The connection of prayer to a powerful presence of the Holy Spirit is central in Luke’s writing.   The promise of the infilling of the Holy Spirit is already there in the words of the angel Gabriel to Zacharias as he serves at the altar (Luke 1:15), and the Spirit is promised to Mary on her prayerful acquiescence (1:35-38) and then comes to Elizabeth and the babe in her womb simply at Mary’s greeting (1:41); Simeon is filled with the Holy Spirit as he prays (2:26-32). These connections are not all unique to Luke (e.g., Matt. 18:20), but they are highlighted sufficiently that when viewed in concert that it is clear the prayer of the Lord, the prayer of his disciples, and the presence of the Holy Spirit as among the major themes Luke chose to feature.


  • Consider your prayer as an invitation to the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit. How does this influence how you see yourself in Zachariah’s shoes? Note this in your journal.



Pray the Benedictus, mindful of the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit as you pray. As you finish, ask God to come and shine his radiant light on your heart so that you may See where he is leading you through the study of these Canticles of Luke.