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O Radiant Dawn

By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Lk 1:78-79)

The song of Zechariah, known to Christian tradition as the Benedictus, is good news for people who dwell in darkness: God‚Äôs own dawn will break, and darkness will give way to light. Zechariah caught a glimpse of God‚Äôs salvation breaking forth and transforming Israel and all creation. His praise gives voice to our own hopes and prayers, for darkness is a fitting description of our world. Few are interested in worshiping God in holiness and righteousness (vv. 74-75). Many have yet to hear of God‚Äôs salvation or trust in him for the forgiveness of sins (v. 76). The threats of war, terrorism, disease, domestic abuse, and other destructive forces cast “the shadow of death” (v. 78) over us all. As a people we do not experience peace, and we don‚Äôt know where to find it (v. 79).

From ancient times the Benedictus has been sung at Morning Prayer. No doubt this traditional usage was suggested by the promise in verses 78-79 that dawn would break upon us, giving the light we so desperately need. It is appropriate to sing of the breaking dawn at sunrise. The physical phenomenon of the rising sun (in the northern hemisphere, sunlight seems so scarce this time of the year!) illustrates what God promised. The mercy we need is on its way—we who live in a dark world will see the light of God in his promised One. Only a little while, and the Sun of Righteousness (Mal 4:2) will shine upon us. Those who follow the Light of the World (Jn 9:5) will be guided into perfect peace.

O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light and Sun of justice,
shine on those lost in darkness:
come to enlighten us.



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