“Attend to the sound of my cry, my king and my God! For to you I will pray, Lord; in the morning you will hear my voice; in the morning I will plead before you and wait.” — Psalm 5:3-4.
“Morning after morning he wakens my ear to hear as disciples do; The Lord God opened my ear;” Isaiah 50:4-5
From the very creation of man and woman God’s people have considered the morning as the time especially suited for the worship of God our creator. Even today it is deemed both a duty and an honour by all Christians at the dawn of a new day to devote some time to seeking solitude and intimacy with God.
I would very much like to encourage the youth of today to observe this “Morning Observance”; at St. Mary’s Hermitage we call this silent time of contemplation “quies” or “quietude” others use the name of the Silent Hour or Quiet Time. The ambience of solitude, the absence of any disturbing noise and all worldly desires and images, the quiet and calm attention of the mind toward God alone, helped by prayer and spiritual reading, stream into this “quies” or “rest” of the soul within God. A simple and joyful rest, full of God, which leads one to feel, in some manner, the whole beauty of life everlasting. All this, whether for a whole hour or just half or a quarter of an hour, joining with the Psalmist in what he declares “in the morning you will hear my voice, in the morning I will plead before you and wait”
In speaking of the extreme importance of this daily silence for prayer and contemplation upon God’s Word, Fr. Jarlath McDonagh ofm.conv., of the Franciscan International Study Centre at Canterbury told us: — “Next to receiving Christ as your Saviour, and claiming Baptism as the gateway to life in the Holy Spirit and Confirmation for the completion of this Baptismal grace, we will receive a ‘special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost.’ [Catechism of the Catholic Church 1302]. Personally I cannot think of any other action that would or could accomplish a greater good both for ourselves or others, than the development of an optimistic commitment to keep this morning observance, and spend the first half hour of the day alone with God.” At first sight Fr. Jarlath’s statement may appear as somewhat excessive. Yet, the act of receiving Christ as our Saviour is one that is so momentous and without limits for all of eternity, the act of professing dependence on the Holy Spirit is one which achieves a conversion within our Christian lives; that an effortless act such as your unfaltering devotion to honour this morning observance would hardly seems important enough to be placed next to them. If, however, we imagine how impossible it would be to live out our daily lives in Christ as our Saviour from sin, or to maintain a path that is lead by the power of the Holy Spirit, without daily, intimate closeness with God, we would quickly notice the facts of this point of view. Because it simply requires an unfaltering courage and resolve that Christ will have our entire life, and that the Holy Spirit must be obeyed completely in all things. This morning observance is crucial to our attitude in which we surrender ourselves to Christ and to the Holy Spirit enabling them both to be continuously and completely supportive of us.
To understand this, let us first of all looks at what THE OBJECTIVES of our the morning observances should be. The morning observance should not be solely regarded as a means to an end by itself. It is not enough that it gives us a dedicated time for prayer and spiritual study, and so brings us a certain degree of strength and succour. It serves partly as a means to an end. And that is — to anchor the manifestation of Christ with us — for the whole day. Individualised devotion to a friend or an activity means that that friend or activity will always secure a place within the heart, even when other commitments occupy our attention. An individualised devotion to Jesus indicates that we will not allow ourselves to be separate from Him under any circumstance or for a single moment of our lives. To abide in Him and His love, to be kept by Him and His grace, to be doing His will and pleasing Him — this cannot possibly be something that is intermittent and fulfilled at our own pleasure — for someone who is truly devoted to Him. The poet Annie Sherwood Hawks expressed this so aptly when in 1872 she wrote one of her most beautiful hymns ‘I need Thee every hour’ and the 1891 hymn written by Major Daniel W. Whittle ‘Moment by moment I am kept in His love.’ These hymns express the language of life and truth. ‘In your name they sing joyfully all the day’ (Psalm 89:17) and ‘I, the Lord, am its keeper, I water it every moment’; (Isaiah 27:3) these are words of Divine power. If you truly believe, if you have fully given your life over to Christ and allow yourself to be guided by the Holy Spirit you would not be able endure a single moment of your lives without Christ. His absence would be an unfathomable void. Your personal devotion to Him will reject and never be content with anything less than to abide in His love and His will always. Anything less would not be a true Christian life. The true aim of the morning observance, its objective, its pre-eminence, its divine favour, should never be perceive as anything less than the central point of your daily lives.
The clearer the objectives of our aspirations are defined, the better we will be able to adapt our method toward their attainment. Now consider your morning observance as THE MEANS toward this significant conclusion: I want to fully anchor the presence of Christ with me all day, I do not want to do anything that could interfere with it. I strongly feel that my successes of the day depend upon the clarity and strength of my faith which seeks, finds and holds Him within the depths of my very soul. Contemplation, prayer and the Word will all be used as supports and accessories toward this objective: the daily relationship that links Christ to us must be renewed every morning and anchored within us. At first you may think that the thought of the whole day, with all its worries, joy’s, lures and desires, could unsettle the repose you have enjoyed within your quiet devotions. That is possible; yet, it will be of no loss. True faith always aims toward having the character of Christ within our view and manifesting His presence within us toward others. Simply speaking, His disposition, goodness, tranquillity and love will manifest themselves in our most common daily acts. The Holy Spirit and the volition of Christ are meant to guide us in such a manner that, in our dealings with others, during our times of recreation, when at work, it will always be second nature to us to act according to the Holy Spirit and the will of Christ. And all this is possible, because Christ Himself lives within us. Don’t be scared or discouraged if at first your aim seems to be too high or complicated, or if it occupies too much of your time during your prayers. Any time that you invest will always be substantially rewarded. You will return to prayer and scripture with renewed purpose and a stronger faith. As your morning devotion begins to have its effect on your day, the day will respond in this half hour, where this arid friendship with Christ will reap new meaning and new strengths for you.
It will have an exceptional influence on your Spirit when you keep the morning devotions. As the greatness of your aim — the unbroken friendship with God through Christ for the duration of your day — and the true nature of the means with which to secure it — a distinct conscious awareness of Christ and an anchoring of His presence for the whole day — benefits us, it will become obvious that one of the most essential thing is, a whole-hearted purpose: the fixed determination, whatever effort or self-denial it may cost you, to win this unrivalled reward. In study or on the sport field every student is aware of the need for a strong will and a determined purpose if we are ever going to succeed, if we do not put in an effort then we can expect little if no return. Faith needs, and indeed deserves, not a lessening of devotion but a greater intensity of devotion. No matter what, the love of Christ, would surely need our complete heart. It is this fixed determination before anything else — to secure Christ’s presence — that will overcome all of our temptations toward being insincere or giving false assurances when keeping of our promise. It is this will that transforms our morning devotions into an influential means of grace for strengthening our character, and gives us the courage to say No to the lures of self-indulgence. It is this self determination which will enable us to immediately, enter our interiority and shut the door to the interruptions of the world outside. Being there with our whole heart, ready at once for our relationship with Christ. And it is this determination for our continued morning devotions, that will become the essence and defining characteristic of our daily lives.
In the world it is often said: Great things are possible if you put your mind to it, and if you want it with all of your heart. The people who have turned their personal devotions toward Christ into their guiding principle, will find that time of their morning devotions as a place where day by day the insight into their mission of devotion is renewed; where the will becomes courageous to walk worthily toward it; where our faith rewards by the majestic and joyful presence of Christ waiting to greet us, and guide us every day so long as we remain faithful to Him. We are more than simple conquerors through Him who loves us. The living Christ who await us.