Good Zeal

Evermore and evermore

This morning, on the Feast of St. John, I took a cold, early morning walk in our woods, rounding the corner into the back pasture just as the bell rang calling the community to Lauds. I hustled across the field, stepping with quick but careful feet across stubble that still bore the remains of Christmas snow. Over my left shoulder, a delicate light infused the sky with endless shades of rose. To my right, the cemetery rested quietly, filled with memory and longing for God. Straight ahead, toward the southwest, was the back of the chapel, where, if I hurried, I could make my way up the back sacristy steps just in time for the opening verse.

I made my way hastily over the snowy stubble, surrounded by woods, ice, graves, hay bales and a few sluggish birds who were too cold to sing. The sound of bells cut insistently through the freezing air. The dawning light looked timeless. The moment felt eternal. I felt connected with everyone and anyone who has ever hastened across a winter field at dawn in order to lift their voice in praise to God.

Desire for God lies within each of us. We are each called to express this desire in our own particular way, and in our own particular time, but the desire itself is eternal, and is rooted in God’s desire for us. For us monastics, we express this desire through our liturgical prayer and our life in community. My hastening steps this morning were not about avoiding being late. They were about desire for God, about wanting to be present, to sing, to unite my voice with those of my Sisters as together we join in the eternal song of praise to our Lord.

I made it through the field, past the icicle-laden barn, and up the back steps just in time to catch my breath in the sacristy before stepping into my place for the opening verse. My hastening steps were at one with the steps of all who have ever hastened to sing praise in the House of God.

This morning, a single time-bound morning in the midst of eternity, was the perfect morning for us to join our voices with those of the ages in a timeless Christmas hymn by a 4th century Christian poet: Of the Father’s Love Begotton.

Of the Father’s love begotten,
Ere the worlds began to be,
He is Alpha and Omega,
He the source, the ending he,
Of the things that are, that have been,
And that future years shall see,
Evermore and evermore!

O that birth forever blessed,
When the Virgin, full of grace,
By the Spirit blest conceiving,
Bore the Savior of our race;
And the Babe, the world’s Redeemer,
First revealed his sacred face,
Evermore and evermore!

Let the heights of heav’n adore him;
Angel hosts, his praises sing;
Pow’rs, dominions, bow before him,
And extol our God and King;
Let no tongue on earth be silent,
Ev’ry voice in concert ring,
Evermore and evermore!

Postscript: We had a beautiful (and white!) Christmas celebration here at the monastery. You can see a few photos on our Community News web page. We’ll be posting more on our Monastery Moments photo gallery in the next day or so.

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