|The Cycles of Our Lives
Light and darkness, day and night, birth and death, praise and need -- from the
distant beginnings of our race, the cycles of life have summoned men and women
to give voice to their lives, and to dare to utter the saving meaning coursing
through the flux of their days.
Hear the song of Your people. [ LISTEN ]
God of darkness. God of light...
We praise Your loving kindness...
In caves and on mountaintops, in temple and in synagogue, in homes and in the
gathering spaces of the Christian community, people have marked the flow of
time -- the day, the week, the year -- by gathering together in common prayer.
We can recognize ourselves in the prayerful gestures of our ancient human
ancestors. Awed by the beauty of the created world, bathed in the light of sun
and moon, they were drawn into silence and thanksgiving. We recognize our roots
in Jerusalem's temple, and in the centuries-old Jewish tradition of synagogue
meetings and everyday prayer in the home -- each hallowing the flow of the
hours, by praying two or three times during the day. Christians set the story
of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection next to this tradition, and evolved
patterns of prayer with which to proclaim God's life-giving mercy. In the
course of the centuries, men and women in monastic communities have continued
the shaping of this living tradition to reflect the spirit of their common life.
Dawn and Dusk
Morning and evening, the hinges of the day, have been special moments for a
people's naming of grace in their lives. We proclaim the
meaning of time. Our days are not a random series of events without direction, a story
without purpose or hope. No, our "ordinary" lives and days have been embraced
at their roots by the self-giving of God in love -- and we cannot but praise
this story of grace which includes us. We pray because we have been already embraced; we pray in order that we may
more fully, actively, and consciously live in that embrace.
You cherish us all, creating us still,
O Lover of the living.
This wonderful, living tradition of daily prayer belongs to us all.
It is a treasure, a birthright, bequeathed to us by earlier generations of
believing people. It is, though, a particular challenge to resourcefulness in
our own day. In contrast to previous generations, our technological age has
obscured the natural rhythms and cycles of life, and their power to disclose
the contours of human life has been hidden. With the demands of modern society
pressing upon us, we are not moved to awe and praise as naturally as were our
forebears. Yet more often than we suspect, we long for a grounding to our
lives, a gathering of the fragments of our days into the mystery of God. The
faithful practice of Morning and Evening Prayer can provide such a rhythm of
promise and recollection, dedication and gratitude. It can be a language in
which we can sing out of our new life in the Spirit.
Today, so many are asleep to the awesome beauty of the created world. And to
its terrible suffering -- the despoiling of the earth and its ecosystems, the
oppression of humans, the extinction of entire life-species, the danger of
nuclear devastation. In our age, the celebration of creation's holiness is met
at every turn by the threat of ruin. Our need cries out for a sabbath rest.
What can Sabbath mean for us?
Sabbath draws us into God's joyful contemplation of creation, bathing all
things in the renewing light of divine love. Sabbath is the voice of our
dignity and freedom as human beings; it celebrates the grace of being partners
in the mending of the world. Sabbath is the reminder to us that we are not
separate from, but in relationship with, all of creation -- sharing a common
space, facing a common threat, moving toward a common future -- with the
Creator Spirit illuminating the entire universe with the light of life.
We place our story of Jesus next to the ancient Jewish story of the joy of the
Sabbath -- and the two kiss! In this post-Holocaust era, may it be an
expression of the solidarity that must bind Jews and Christians together. As
Gregory of Nyssa reminded his community in the early church, "Don't you realize
that the Sabbath Day and the Lord's Day are sisters?"
United in Prayer
Daily prayer reminds us that we are not alone. We are united to a wide family,
a community spanning time and space. Know that you do not pray alone. We are
united with all "our absent brothers and sisters."
[ MUSIC: 'HEAR THE SONG OF YOUR PEOPLE' ]