Every morning in the Matins prayers we sing the Hymns of the Guiding Light in the tone of the week. Each tone has a slightly different wording of the same basic theme. The theme is that the rising sun each morning is evidence that even in the darkness of this world God provides guiding light. The hymn in tone two goes like this: “Send forth Thine everlasting light, O Christ God, and enlighten the hidden eyes of my heart.” In tone four: “O Thou who make the light to rise upon thy world, cleanse every sin of my soul which is in darkness.”
What is this light that shines in darkness? I think the light is love.
The scandal of Christianity is the incarnation. The scandal is that the eternal, pure and true God loved as a man in this messy, futile, confusing, irrational world. And this is our scandal: that we too are called to love in a world that makes no sense, within systems that are corrupt, using words and rituals that at best merely point toward what is eternal, pure and true; and at worst, these same words and rituals can be used to foster pride, division and even hate. This is the darkness in which the light of love comes. This is the darkness in which we are called to love.
Sometimes, especially when I am tired or sad, the brokenness of the world weighs heavily on me. It is like the cold darkness of early morning, rising to pray before the sun armed with nothing much more than hope, hope that the sun will rise, that light will shine in darkness, that love will dawn in our hearts. I can do nothing more than rise, and pray, and love those God has given me to love. I can’t fix the world, but I can love in the world.
Praying in the early morning has an interesting effect on me. Like the rooster who thinks the sun rises because he crows, I feel like the sun rises, not because of, but with my prayers. I am prepared for the darkness I will encounter through the day, a darkness in which I know the light of love can dawn. I know this because I have already seen one miraculous dawning that day. Some people think the sun rises (or the earth turns) by some mechanical necessity. I choose to believe that it is a miracle, a miracle of God’s grace and His promise that darkness will not win.
In the darkness before the day, men and women rise in hope to offer themselves and the whole world to the God who cannot be seen in the weak light of this world. In the darkness of a world gone mad, where futility seems to reign, love rises as a guiding light. The love of God rises in our hearts and through us into the dark world.
St. Paul ends Romans chapter eight saying that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. He lists some pretty grizzly possibilities: “tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword.” He even goes so far as to quote Psalm 44 (43): 23, “For Your sake we are killed all day long: We are counted as sheep for the slaughter.” But even death, even the long, slow, seventy-year death of existence in a futile world is not able to separate us from the love of God. And this love of God is the only love we have, our only light in the darkness, and the very light we have to shine in this world.