Daily Office Readings for Sunday, December 21, 2014:
Psalm 103 (Evening)
I suspect a fair number of us do our most serious praying lying on our backs in bed, staring at the ceiling. Now, probably most of us are doing it when we are feeling stressed out (think Psalm 4:4) but in today’s Psalm, we get the luxury of thinking about God about good things when we’re having mental conversation with the ceiling.
You know the moments. Perhaps it’s a day where a wonderful milestone event in our lives or the lives of those we love has filled the day, or a day where we got to do a secret good work, or perhaps a day where the milleu around us simply breathed, “Life is good.”
Isn’t it interesting that for so many of us, the truest, deepest moments of our joy are best expressed in the darkness of night? It sort of flies in the face of popular Christianity, which tends to polarize the two, and frequently gives darkness the short end of the stick. Yet I think sometimes, we crave the darkness to process our joy and wonder, too. This seems especially true when we’ve performed a good work anonymously, or felt too inhibited to gush over something or someone in the presence of others. It’s a time the colloquial phrase “under cover of darkness” seems appropriate, because in these moments, the darkness feels like a warm, safe quilt, where we can strip down to our skivvies and feel like our soul is an open book.
Pondering joy and contentment from the warmth of our beds is a good stepping stone to an ancient spiritual practice–the examen–a cornerstone of Ignatian spirituality. Ignatius of Loyola recommended the examen twice a day–once at noon, and once at the end of the day. Although one can purchase any of a whole host of books that go into the examen in far greater detail, here’s an easy enough set of instructions for the nighttime examen that anyone can do in those “flat in bed staring at the ceiling” moments:
1. Feel the stillness in the darkness and try to find God’s presence in it.
2. Gratefully review the events of the day–the good, the bad, and the ugly.
3. What emotions bubble up as you do this? Pay attention to them.
4. Pick out one event from your day and pray from it.
5. When you are finished praying, close silently with a few minute’s rest in God’s presence. (Falling asleep in this part of the practice is not unusual, and actually rather pleasant, so don’t worry if that happens.)
Our psalm today is a reminder that even flat on our backs in bed, we have the skills to live in the currents and countercurrents of the presence of God, among the mundane and not-so-mundane details of our lives. A piece of the Good News in Christ is that Christ’s resurrection reduced darkness to being just another place we can be with God–so why not enjoy some time alone in the dark with God, in the shadow of those holy wings?
“Codex St Peter perg 7 10v” by Anonymous -Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons