Last year around this time I started a short series on the Latin hymn (comprising a series of antiphons) Veni, Veni Emmanuel, but didn’t get around to finishing it, so I intend to do that this year. We had gotten through v. 5 previously (which you can find here, along with links to the other four). 1 This stanza plays upon the antithesis of light and dark: Christ is the Rising Sun that drives away night. But night stands not only for itself, but is also, as frequently, a metaphor for death. Christ’s coming brings comfort and consolation as it illumines us and wards off terror, putting it to flight as dawn does to night’s thick darkness.
The “morning star” is mentioned in at least two places in the New Testament. One is 2 Peter 1:19: “And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.” The other, Rev. 22:16, explicitly identifies it with Christ: “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning start.”
This stanza reminds us of the restoration of all things in the new heaven and new earth where God’s people will worship him forever: “And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 22:5). (The Latin text and poetic translation can be found here.)
Veni, veni O Oriens,
solare nos adveniens,
noctis depelle nebulas,
dirasque mortis tenebras.
Gaude, gaude; Emmanuel nascetur pro te Israel!
Come, come, o Morning Star,
coming to console us,
to drive away the clouds of night
and the dread darkness of death.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall be be born for you, Israel.
O come, Thou Dayspring from on high,
and cheer us by thy drawing nigh;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night
and death’s dark shadow put to flight.