For some, it’s a piping hot cup of coffee. For others, a brisk walk in the cool morning air. Even more, the first bite of their hot breakfast. Apparently, as the dawn breaks, we all need some comfort.
Here’s mine: The final stanza of the Canticle of Zechariah from each day’s morning offering in the Liturgy of the Hours:
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.
Beautiful words, a felt promise from God and a comfort to start a new day.
A priest-acquaintance of mine once talked briefly about the morning and evening offerings of prayer. He stated simply:
“We pray at night for protection in the darkness. And we pray in gratitude in the morning that we woke up!”
He was wry in his wit here, but also spoke volumes to many. A person I served a meal to one day at a shelter was asked a simple “How’s it going today?” And his response was epic:
“Well, since I woke up this morning, I’d say I’m doing pretty good!”
Indeed. And how much more does God give to us with today’s dawn? But what about those who did not awaken this day? Are they doing any less good?
A friend lost her father this week and I have been praying for her family. The canticle of Zechariah, the first words spoken by John the Baptist’s father, after he was silenced for so long speak to the joy that we are offered not only with each sunrise and each breath, but also each moment beyond these. For those left behind, God provides compassion, of course, especially those of us who feel like we are in the darkness. But also, for those called home, God guides their journey into everlasting comfort. God’s gift at the end is in fact, Himself. God calls us to union in the end and in that, we are offered the gift of everlasting peace.
In his final years, Cardinal Bernadin wrote a book called The Gift of Peace. It’s content is well worth reading, but the title alone speaks to his own acceptance in his final days, coming to see God’s guiding his last steps on earth into the way of God’s peace. It betrays a believer’s joy, that in dying, he found comfort beyond the usual coffee cups and scrambled eggs. Laying to rest in God and the want for nothing more was a last great gift indeed.
I pray for that gift for those who have died this week, especially for my friend’s father and also for those who find peace at a distance this day. Peace is indeed a gift and we often need guidance to not only find it, but accept it when it may very well not feel like peace, but more of an unwilling resignation into what is.
My morning comfort today is trust. Trust that God indeed does guide my feet into the way of peace.
And more importantly, that God always will.