Not to put too fine a point on it, I love morning prayer. I love the way it recalls, and brings us into, the Christian vision of hope, of God opening up a closed world. I love the way it asserts the making-possible involved - not a making-possible that is easy, but something which both allows us, and calls us, to participate in the ongoing process of resurrection. In that respect, the bit I really love is the Benedictus. This is the New Testament canticle sometimes called The Song of Zachary, as it is the Luke's record of Zachariah's words on the birth of his son, who we know best as John the Baptist.
These, then, are the things I take from the Benedictus each morning: God is the God of Liberation ("Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who has come to his people and set them free"); and this has already happened ("He has raised up for us a mighty saviour"). This is still happening, and hasn't happened, and there is work to do ("You will go before the Lord to prepare his way"); and - to borrow a neat phrase from James Allison - we have to start from where we are ("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").
As Brother John of the Taize Community has put it, drawing on the work of Oscar Cullmann, the situation of humanity after the first Easter is one of the resurrection being "already present and not yet here." Around us, if we look, there are signs of hope. In a fractured, hurting world, where so much seems bleak, such bluntness might come across as naivety - this is why the "starting from where we are" part is so important. Around us, if we look, there are signs of hope. And we must choose how we participate. Read The Benedictus in full below...
- Megan Barford
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
he has come to his people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty savior,
born of the house of his servant David.
Through his holy prophets he promised of old
that he would save us from our enemies,
from the hands of all who hate us.
He promised to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant.
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.
You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,
to give his people knowledge of salvation
by the forgiveness of their sins.
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.