I Will Wake the Dawn

Assisi 2016 (18) - Copy

“I will sing and chant praise.  Awake, my soul; awake, lyre and harp!
I will wake the dawn.” Psalm 57:8-9

This is a bold claim—to wake the dawn. As if the dawn would not get up by itself. As if it would not wake me.

How do I feel in the morning? Sometimes full of joy and looking forward to the day’s events; sometimes worried and concerned, often just tired. For some of us the dawn is a relief because we could not sleep well.

In order to wake the dawn, I have to be up before the dawn. I have to be awake before the sun even wakes me. It is bold because as humans, we are part of nature and mother sun is huge and powerful. To be ahead even of her is an amazing thing.

The Psalm seems to point directly to Jesus Christ. The women discovered His rising from the dead “as the day was dawning.” This discovery, the resurrection of the Lord, brought a new light to their life that changed everything. It was truly a dawn of a new life. But when they discovered the empty tomb and the angel sitting there, the Lord was already risen. That means He had risen before the dawn. It means He is greater than the sun and moon; he is even before the sun. He is the true sun. He is the true light.

When we get up very early in the morning, when we wake the dawn – with our praise, with our joy –  we join the Lord. We can sense something of this new, everlasting, imperishable life. We are filled with joy because Jesus is even stronger than day and night, stronger than life and death. In Him all of this was created and finds its fulfillment.

Dear Lord, when I am tired and not motivated to wake up, let me think of you. You are ahead of me. You are ahead of this day, so I know that everything will be good. Let me be close to you. Let me be with you at the place where you have been even before all life was born. You give me a light and a life that cannot be destroyed, by no one and by nothing. Let my singing and chanting be an expression of this joy. Let me get up early. Let me wake the dawn.

Advertisements

Lord, You Know Me

It is wonderful to have a friend who knows you well, with whom you have walked for many years. With whom you can share everything; who knows your story. With whom a conversation does not start at zero, you can just jump into it. To have a person who understands and who knows you, is a great gift of God.

However, sometimes not even a friend can reach my heart. This is an odd experience. Sometimes we are just left with ourselves, left alone. We cannot find a partner that adequately responds to our feelings, our story, our thoughts, situation or needs. But these moments that can be filled with darkness and sadness can also turn into a very precious experience. The situation breaks us open to realize that our loneliness is not an accident, but the reflection of our deepest call as human beings that goes beyond what another human being can grasp or understand. We realize that our loneliness touches the dimension of God; it is a result of the fact that we are immediate to God. This is the monk’s moment. The term monk stems from the Greek word “monachos” which means “single, solitary”.

Through God’s grace, we are able in these moments of aloneness to talk to Christ or to God and find his ear. And his response is always exactly what we need. We realize: HE understands, HE knows. His presence resonates with everything I utter and express. I feel understood, appreciated, loved. I feel liked by him as by a good friend. But even better, and in a perfect way. Nothing is missing.

One of my favorite Psalms comes to mind:  Lord, you know me. You understand my thoughts from afar. You formed my inmost being. My very self you know. (cf Psalm 139).

As we leave this our inner “cell”, which is more than a room, we become open for any kind of God-filled relationship. We feel connected with the world and with everybody or everything that crosses our way. Because we are connected again with ourselves and with God.

Lord, you are my best friend; you are better than any friend ever could be. Give me good friendships and help me to maintain them. Open my heart to you when I feel lonely. Let me not give in to despair or sadness, but instead make me seek your presence. You know me. You understand me. How precious this is for me to know!

Irland2 003 - Copy

It Is Okay To Be Away

Sometimes we just want to get away – away from places, people, worries. We want to flee, to escape, because things have become unbearable. Our faith tells us it is okay to want this; it’s how monasticism started. The ancient monks were fed up with what they saw and experienced, and fled into the desert, far away from everybody and everything. They trusted what the Psalms say:

Free me from the net they have set for me, for you are my refuge.  Psalm 31:5

God is our refuge. There is a place where we can go. Certainly, they experienced that they could not escape from themselves. Their ego, their weaknesses, the paradoxes of their lives would follow them wherever they went, almost mercilessly. There is no way to get away from ourselves. Here, again, we receive consolation through our faith:

Where can I go from your spirit? From your presence, where can I flee?  If I ascend to the heavens, you are there; if I lie down in Sheol, there you are. If I take the wings of dawn and dwell beyond the sea, even there your hand guides me, your right hand holds me fast. If I say, “Surely darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light”, darkness is not dark for you, and night shines as the day.  Psalm 139:7-12

Who is there, when I am away, when I am even disconnected from myself? Who is there beyond myself, beyond my limits? It is God. In Him I can become myself again and be at peace. I think of Jonah who tried to escape from his call. God mercifully sent the whale and brought him back where he belonged. There are so many ways nowadays to escape; some ways are better than others. To escape into drugs, for example, can be disastrous. God doesn’t want us to be harmed on our flight. It is okay to be away. However, when we don’t want to see anymore, we still should not flee blindly. The light is finally awaiting us.

My Lord and my God, you know that sometimes I would like to flee, to be beamed onto the moon. But these are just moments. It is okay to feel this way. You are my hiding place. You are my refuge. Your loving eyes follow me, your fatherly hand holds me, your motherly heart walks with my wandering heart until it finds rest in you.

maine3-2015-florida-188-copy

Seeking His Face

Towards what or whom do I direct my eyes? On whom do I look? Our eyes are busy all day long both when we work and when we relax. It occurred to me as I was praying Psalm 27 that I long to fix my eyes on the Lord:

“Come,” says my heart, “seek his face”. Your face, Lord, do I seek! (Psalm 27:8)

I was meditating how I could trust God more, and I realized: by looking more at Jesus. If I trust somebody I look into his or her eyes. Looking at each other fosters trust. Could I spend more time looking at Jesus’ life and face instead of spending so much time browsing the Internet? Could I watch more His healing and loving attitude than to be scared by things that happen around me and in today’s world? The eyes have a tendency to control, more than the ears for example. I can close my eyes but not my ears. Letting go control and letting my eyes sink into His eyes would strengthen my trust in Him.

There are many ways to look at Christ. I can place my eyes on the crucifix or an icon in my room. I can have an image of Jesus ready on my phone. Reading the Bible helps me to know Him better. I can spend time in Adoration gazing at the Blessed Sacrament. I look at Christ and Christ looks me. Every day innumerable people around the globe follow this practice. What a gift to the world and to themselves.

Lord, I want to seek your face. If I can’t see your face, let me at least try to seek you, in any way. Your eyes are seeking mine. This I know. You watch over me. You look at me because you love me. You offer me constantly to trust you more. Thank you, Jesus.

Chicago Art Inst 415
Jesus and the Samaritan woman seeking each other’s gaze (Piero di Cristoforo Vannucci, 1445)

 

 

They Have Noses But Do Not Smell

Another monastic moment, unspectacular but meaningful. A Psalm popping into my mind explains to me what I have just experienced. Opening the shampoo bottle, about to wash my hair, I smelled the fragrance. It seemed I had never smelled it before. Not only was my nose opened all of a sudden, but my whole being felt differently. I felt more life within me. It was Psalm 115 that I remembered:

They have ears but do not hear, noses but do not smell.  Psalm 115:6

The psalmist speaks about the idols of the peoples, but I applied it to myself. God gives me more gifts than I use. Smelling is one of these underappreciated gifts. We humans are very much vision oriented. Listening is more difficult; tasting and smelling are usually not at the forefront of our awareness. However, those senses go really deep. We “have a nose for somebody or something”; we have our intuition.

My novice master used to say: If you lose the meaning of your life and nothing makes sense, use your senses! The senses bring back the sense. Evagrius Ponticus, one of the most relevant monastic authors of the 4th century wrote: “If you want to know God, know yourself first” (Migne, PG 40,1267). Whatever we perceive is precious, because it can lead us into a greater knowledge of God. So why be afraid? Why do we close our noses? Because we don’t want to be bothered by bad smells. But how can we know that the smell is really bad and not just in our imagination? Like an idol that exists just in our imagination? At our baptism our senses were opened by the priest or deacon in the Effata-Rite. Christ has given us new life. He invites us to have life to its fullest. (John 10:10) We often don’t live to our fullest potential.

Dear Lord, let me pause for a moment and use my senses. Let me take a deep breath. What do I smell? Open my attention to what is around me. Let me take a moment when I pass by a flower, and smell. Let me smell the fragrance of the forest. Let me take in the air of the morning. Let me smell while I eat. Let me taste how good you are. Every day. Every moment.

Taste and see that the Lord is good

Tremble before the Lord

It was during Sunday Vespers. I must have been in a fearful mood. I can’t remember why. But as sometimes, I was not even aware of my emotions. Suddenly a verse of Psalm 114 caught my eyes:

“Tremble, o earth, before the Lord.” Psalm 114:7

I immediately felt consoled. The fear was gone. How could this happen? As I was reflecting later, it came to me: Trembling before God seems to be much better than trembling before human beings, or situations, or anything else on earth. HE is the one and only before whom everyone trembles. Before whom everyone must tremble.

This knowledge did not increase my fear, but erased it. Fear of God is just natural because we know God is mightier than we are. However, what is better? Fearing God or fearing human beings? Being afraid of human beings, including ourselves, may be more justified because our goodness is limited and we can act evil. Not so can God. So, fearing God is the better choice. He is the loving and merciful God as Jesus has shown us. In other words, I felt consoled because I realized: Fear has a place. It has its place “before Him”, in the presence of God. It is taken care of in the presence of the loving and merciful God. I must not be afraid, because any fear is in good hands with Him. He is stronger and He is better.

Prayer against fear

Dear Lord, take all fear from me. Let me grow in the fear of you, who is my loving maker and caretaker. Prevent me from thinking and acting out of fear. Let the earth tremble and be shaken so that it may become a better and more peaceful place. I am not afraid of trembling before you.