"The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God." -St Irenaeus of Lyon

Beginning the day

Have you ever wondered why so many people begin (and end) their days with the news?  We seem to be a people inexplicably drawn towards suffering, discord, and discontentment.

It is hard because so much of this rhythm feels entirely natural.  The morning headlines greet you in your email, the morning news show inhabits your drive to work, the 6p and 10p television news reflect important parts of evening routines.

How much of our routines draw us towards suffering, discord and discontentment?  Peace, something I am increasingly finding amidst stillness, seems almost totally opposed to the rhythm of the majority of my day.  By my estimation, we lose touch with our sources of peace, trading the “real deal of peace” for its substitutes of information and pleasure.  We enter into combat rather than seeking communion.  We articulate differences as opposed to commonality.  And for my own indictment, I very rarely structure my days around peace.

Interestingly, as I mused on these thoughts this morning, I stumbled across a spoken version of the prayer below.  Thinking about beginning the day with peace, I found this psalm to be an apt reflection.  It is from Prayers by the Lake, at number 16.

Arise O sons of the Sun of God! Arise, the merciful sun has risen and has begun to pour its light lavishly over the dark fields of the earth. It has risen to set you free from sleep’s gloom and terror.

Your sins of yesterday are not written out on the sun. The sun does not remember or seek revenge for anything. On its face there are no wrinkles from your forehead, nor is there any sadness, envy, or sorrow. Its joy lies in giving, its youth– its rejuvenation — lies in serving. Blessed are those who serve, for they shall not grow old.

What if the sun were to imitate you, my neighbors? How little light it would shed on earth, you misers! How bloody its light would be, you murderers! How green it would become with envy when it saw greater suns that itself, you envious people! How red with wrath it would become when it heard the profanities below, you short-tempered people! How yel­low it would become with yearning for the beauty of the stars, you greedy people! How pale it would become with fear, if no one marked its way, you cowards! How dark it would become with worry, you worrisome worriers! How wrinkled and old it would become living on yesterday’s wrongdoing, you vengeful people! How astray it would go from the right way if it fought over rights, you auctioneers of rights! How cold and dead it would become, and how it would envelop the entire universe with its death, you preachers of death!

Oh how fortunate it is for the world that the sun will never imitate you, O sons and daughters of earth!

Indeed, the sun does not know many things as you do, but it does know two things eternally: that it is a servant and a symbol. It knows that it is a servant of the One who kindled it and that it is a symbol of the One who put it at His service.

Be servants of the One who illuminates you with the sun on the outside and with Himself on the inside, and you will taste the sweetness of eternal youth.

Be a symbol of the One who put you among the animals of the earth, and you will surpass the radiance of the sun. Truly all the animals around you will swim in happiness beneath the rays of your goodness, even as moons swim around suns.

Yet what are the sun and all the stars except piles of ashes, through which You shine, O Son of God? Piles of ashes that lessen Your radiance and sift it through themselves like a thick sieve? For indeed, in Your full radiance nothing would be seen except You, just as in total darkness nothing is seen except darkness.

O Lord, Lord, do not scorch us with Your radiance, which is unbearable for our eyes; and do not leave us in the gloom where one grows old and decays.  You alone know the measure of our needs, O Lord, glory to You!

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