“Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed” (Mk 1:35). This was a common practice of pious Jews at the time. The intent was to spend time away from the everyday hustle and bustle, to be still, to better be able to connect with God. Jesus is making the effort and time to do the same, to go off to a place of quiet and stillness before the day’s activity begins, and to seek guidance from his Father as to how best to proceed in his ministry. When Simon Peter is able to track Jesus down, Jesus expresses the guidance he received to move on to the nearby villages to preach there also.
I have found the practice also very beneficial. From the early 90’s when I entered the Franciscans and learned how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours a verse spoke to me in the first week there: “My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready. I will sing, I will sing your praise. Awake my soul, awake lyre and harp, I will awake the dawn” (cf. Psalm 57). There is a feeling and experience of peace, renewal, and empowerment with making the time to “awake the dawn.”
I have been blessed with the ability to do so over the past twelve years. Having the privilege and opportunity to teach at Rosarian Academy and now Cardinal Newman HS, I begin my day in the chapel sitting quietly and praying the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer and waking up with the dawn to greet the day. Now at Cardinal Newman around seven o’clock has been the addition on most days of participating in the liturgy. It is nice to begin the morning slowly with God, to be infused with his Word and the Eucharist, then to go forth into the day to share the joy of that morning’s encounter. I will then periodically stop by the chapel throughout the day and before going home, to be still and quiet, looking at Jesus while he looks at me.
If arising before dawn is not a practice you experience already, I invite you to take a day or two in the week to wake up the dawn. It is tempting to press the snooze button and get another 20-30 minutes of sleep. Yet, I have found something about the stillness before the dawn, experiencing night giving way to the morning light, hearing the bird song begin, all the while in conjunction with spending that time with God in prayer, has been a blessing and a gift. May you open this gift sometime this week!
Photo: tabernacle and sanctuary lamp in the chapel at Cardinal Newman, before the dawn
Link for the Mass readings for Sunday, February 4, 2018: