Peering out between the blinds, the dark hills seemed flat and black, barely perceptible against the early morning sky still murky with the vestiges of a long night. Unable to sleep, I crept to the window hoping to see even a faint glow through the bare trees that scratched at the clouds. The day before had brought sad news, the kind of news that strikes at the heart, leaving a sorrow that seems irredeemable. I had not slept well.
As I began morning prayer, it was a struggle to focus on the words before my eyes. I was grateful for the Benedictus as never before since I could pray it by heart, letting my mind rest on each word and phrase. Slowly at first, then with a dawning awareness, I realized this prayer of thanksgiving more than alluded to the scripture passage for the day; it formed a microcosm of all scripture. Somehow, I heard the prayer entwined within the passage, just as I heard the passage reflected in the prayer.
Intrigued, I continued praying, and then my mind awakened to the words in a way that felt like light slowly seeping up through the dark.
This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to set us free from the hands of our enemies,
free to worship him without fear,
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life.
Reflecting on the previous day and night, I stopped and listened to these words, bringing each phrase into my understanding as words spoken directly to me. I saw my enemies, the doubt and helplessness, the dread from losing oneself in a barrage of circumstances I could do little about. The fears that pummeled me throughout the night, the grief and anxiety that flung hopelessness into my mind, were all foes against which I had little defense. Then I recalled when Jesus would stand beside me at the dark window, peering into the endless night as I searched fretfully for a bit of dawn, a hint of light.
In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness
and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
I spoke these words aloud, and they echoed back to me in the stillness of the room. Standing at the window, I pushed the blinds aside again. Though the sky was still muffled in clouds, a pale glow was rising above the blackened hills. It was as if Jesus, again standing silently beside me at the window, let out a sigh. The blessing rose beside the darkness, and though the darkness was still there, I knew it would not last.
In the days to come, I became increasingly aware of the Benedictus. This prayer elucidated the morning’s scripture, leading me back again and again through every darkness into the light-filled promises of God.
By Noel Poston, Oblate OSB