Thursday, February 02, 2017

Working out the Nunc

Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace,
according to Thy word.
For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation,
which Thou hast prepare before the face of all people
to be a light to lighten the Gentiles
and to be the glory of Thy people Israel.
It is interesting to note that the Benedictine office of Compline doesn't have these words of St Simeon on a day-to-day basis when perhaps many think it should. However, the Nunc Dimittis does appear in the Office of Compline over the Triduum and on the Commemoration of All Souls. 

From the Traditional Benedictine point of view, the Nunc Dimittis is not a bedtime prayer. Even through the night we are to watch with Christ, rise from slumber and say the Night Office called Matins, or more appropriately Vigils. For Benedictines, the Nunc Dimittis is truly a prayer to pray when our work is done. 

The oblate is largely free from the obligation of rising at night, allowing the brothers and sisters who have taken the full vows to perform that work on their behalf. However, many oblates still desire the ability to do so even when their lives are taken up with family and work duties. The Night Office is a truly beautiful work to perform, alternating between psalms and readings, beginning with the Venite. 

The Venite and the Nunc Dimittis are polar opposites. The first encourages us to scurry to the oratory to present ourselves ready for God's service. The other is said by the tired old monk who finally sees what his life of prayerful watch and vigil have done for him. It is a canticle which proves that God fulfills His promises.

It is true! God does exactly what He says He will do. He hears our prayers, and answers them in the way that brings about the greatest good in humanity. His methods boggle our understanding, even confound and scandalise us, but nonetheless, God is truly faithful to the covenant even when we are not. 

If we want to see this light to lighten our own lives, then we have to make the presentation of Jesus ourselves, just as St Joseph and Our Lady do, just as St Simeon has been doing all his life long. A life of work is hard, yet by dedicating ourselves as temples of the Holy Ghost and allowing Christ's presentation to this temple, and then working to shine this great light like a mirror upon a dark world, we will receive great peace and the knowledge of a job well done. 

The monotony of work and prayer only becomes boring if there is something in us that needs changing. Boredom with liturgy demonstrates that we require some change within ourselves so that we can become more Christ-like. When we feel disinclined to pray, then this is the exact time to do so, forcing our voices through the somnolence of the darkness and through into the Divine Light of God. 

We have a duty to pray and work until our lives end. St Paul did as much. The Holy Martyrs went through the agony of their work for God and they saw Christ waiting for them. The saints devote their lives into service for God and we still feel the warmth of the good that propagates from God through their merits, spreading like ripples across the fabric of Spacetime.

If we pray the Nunc Dimittis tonight, then let us receive the peace which God does give us before we sleep, and let us pray the Venite all the more devoutly tomorrowmorning when our service to God continues afresh.

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