“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. In the early 90’s when I entered the Franciscans, I learned how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. During my first week of participating in this practice, a verse resonated with me: “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 (except for the past month as I have been recovering) with the ability to wake the dawn over the past fifteen years or so. Having the privilege and opportunity to teach for eight and a half years at Rosarian Academy and for the past seven now Cardinal Newman HS, I begin each day in the chapel sitting quietly and praying the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer. It is nice to begin the morning slowly with God, to be infused with his Word and to be in the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, then to go forth into the day to share the joy of that morning’s encounter. I also periodically stop by the chapel throughout the day and stop 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 one day 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 High School, before the dawn. I am looking forward to returning to waking the dawn at CN soon!!!