From The Attentive Life
Oh! morning at the brown brink eastward, springs
because the Holy Ghost, over the bent
world broods with warm breast and ah! bright wings.
(Gerard Manley Hopkins, “God’s Grandeur”)
Each one is a gift, no doubt,
mysteriously placed in your waking hand
or set upon your forehead
moments before you open your eyes.
(Billy Collins, “Days”)
Lauds comes just before dawn, as the first light begins to finger into the day. It is the hour that takes us from darkness into light – into the time of awakening to the day, to life, to God.
At Mepkin Abbey, Lauds begins at 5:30 a.m. As the redbirds and field creatures along the Cooper River are beginning to stir, the cowled monks and their guests make their way into the white chapel and “stand poised on the pointe vierge (the virginal point of the day) waiting to be called to praise.” “Honor” is the significance of laud, but laud (being closely related to lute) also signifies a hymn of praise. This is the time when worshipers greet not only the dawn of the day but the dawn of new life, celebrating the Risen Christ, as Christians have through many centuries, seeing in the rising sun a picture of the One who has conquered the darkness of sin and death.
Following Lauds, breakfast is served. But before Lauds the worshipers have already fed their minds and hearts with the Word of God, having spent the hour or so after Vigils in lectio divina, the pondering of scripture.
“In the beginning was the Word.” Lauds points to the Word as the way to begin our days and the guide for our path. In the passage of life this calls to mind the early years when our identity is first being formed. In our spiritual life it is the time when we begin to wake to the light of God. It is the time of beginnings.
The first reality of day is that at dawn (and long before) God is paying attention to us. He creates each new day of our life as a gift. As day breaks, he calls us to be a people who pay attention, who watch over his world as he watches over us.