Each verse in this passage expresses the recognition that the promise of God’s salvation has come and is fulfilled. The insight and the emotion builds with each verse until it reaches a crescendo in the last verse.
Every morning I start my day with prayer. Each day my morning prayers include a reading of the Canticle of Zechariah, which can be seen as a ‘morning prayer’ in praise of the Incarnation of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Zechariah bursts into this prayer of praise at seeing the infant Jesus in the Temple when he is brought there to be circumcised. It is, then, in a way, a morning prayer for the Church. Zechariah, inspired by the Holy Spirit, understands who this child is and he expresses his joy in this prayer of thanks and praise. It is a good way for all of us to start our days, steeped in joyful thanks and praise to the One who became one of us, who suffered and died out of infinite love for us, freeing us from the bonds of our sins.
Each verse in this passage expresses the recognition that the promise of God’s salvation has come and is fulfilled. The insight and the emotion builds with each verse until it reaches a crescendo in the last verse. It is this verse that I long for as I read the Canticle every day. It is this verse that so simply expresses the truth of Jesus’ coming and does so with such poetic and prayerful beauty. It says:
‘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.’ (Luke 1:79)
Everything is there. Jesus’ birth into time and space as one of us is the very expression of God’s compassion for his children. That compassion is so profound that it could only be shown to us in the flesh. Jesus, the Beloved Son of God, let go of divinity and became like us, even unto death. God’s love is no longer distant, it is intimate, and personal. The very word compassion means ‘to suffer with.’ This is how much he loves us. He knows our suffering intimately and personally because he entered into it fully.
Jesus is ‘the dawn from on high’ that has broken upon us. The long night of our waiting for the fulfillment of the ancient promise, has been overcome. The light of Christ has defeated all that has made the world dark. He has conquered death and there is before us now the endless ‘day’ of God’s mercy and love. The dawn has come and shines brightly. We are no longer ‘those who dwell in the darkness and the shadow of death’ that we entered as a result of Original Sin. Though we fell through one man, Adam, we have been saved by another, Jesus, The Christ.
Because Jesus, who is ‘the dawn from on high,’ has come, and because he has shown us the way to love one another as he loved us, and because the final victory over the darkness was won on the Cross, and because we know that he remains with us now, in his Holy Spirit, we can be confident that it is he who will ‘guide our feet into the way of peace.
To begin each day reflecting on this Canticle of Zechariah is one way to start your day with joy and hope. It sets a tone for the rest of one’s day. Because Jesus has come, we can believe wholeheartedly that God did this for us to show us that he still sees in us the goodness that he made us in from our beginning. Though there are times when our lives seem lost in darkness, in faith we know, even if we can not see it in the moment, that ‘the dawn from on high has broken upon us.’ If we can, in prayer, return to this truth, make a habit of it, we may find the comfort we seek. It is there. We no longer are waiting for it. Now, it waits for us to turn our gaze toward it, to see it, as if in the face, and know it for what it truly is.
Lord, we have faith; increase our little faith. Give us the grace to begin our days reflecting on the ‘dawn from on high’ that you have so generously shown down upon us in your Son, Jesus Christ. Let our hope never fade in you. Let us love one another in this same way, as you have commanded us to do. We pray in the power of the holy name of Jesus. Amen.
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