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. God of darkness. God of light...
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 timethe day, the week, the yearby 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 homeeach 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.
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 loveand 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 sufferingthe 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 creationsharing a common space, facing a common threat, moving toward a common futurewith 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 Sabbathand 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?"
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."