Wake up to the Risen Son

By  Sara Loftson, The Catholic Register
  • April 17, 2007

I am not a morning person. I automatically hit the snooze button a couple of times before I finally drag myself out of bed. But during Lent I got a wake up call that I couldn’t ignore.

I signed up for my first silent retreat in preparation for Easter and in hope of some needed R & R. I carpooled with 18 people from St. Thomas Aquinas parish in downtown Toronto to the Abbey of Genesee in Piffard, New York.

We stayed in a lovely big home a half-kilometre away from a cloistered monastery. Thirty-four Trappist monks live there, dedicating their lives to God, rarely leaving their nearly 500 hectares of forest, ravines, rolling hills and a meandering creek to live a concentrated life of prayer.

As retreatants we were encouraged, but not obliged, to take part in the monks’ prayer life, gathering seven times a day to pray the official prayer of the church called the Liturgy of the Hours.

Every monastery creates its own daily schedule. The Trappists begins at 2 a.m. for the morning vigil at 2:25 a.m. Intermittent prayer continues throughout the day with lauds at 6 a.m., sext at 11:15 a.m., vespers at 4:30 p.m. and compline at 6:30 p.m. Bedtime is 7 p.m.

Despite never having heard of these prayers before, I gulped and accepted the personal challenge to forego my hope of sleeping in.

It didn’t take long to realize that God rewards small self-sacrifices in a big way.

My buzzer went off the first morning at 5:30 a.m. I woke up, got out of bed and proceeded to get ready to go to the abbey. I was tempted to rest my head on the pillow for a minute, but by the grace of God I kept moving.

On the way to the abbey I stopped for a moment to stare at how the stars pierced through the darkness lighting the vast, clear sky.

Inside the dimly lit abbey we prayed lauds, the morning prayer, which turned out to be my favourite of the bunch.

The idea behind lauds is to praise God first thing in the morning. The early morning sunrise, filling the sky with light, is symbolic of Jesus’ Resurrection. It was at dawn that Christ, the true light, rose from the tomb and conquered death and darkness.

The truth of this prayer didn’t really dawn on me until I stepped outside, nearly blinded by the beauty of the dawn pouring over the horizon. There have been very few times in my life that I have woke up early enough to watch the sun swallow the black starry sky and spit out pink, purple, yellow and orange flames.

My lips curled into a smile as the birds sang their psalms to God. My nose smiled too as the delicious smell of monks’ bread swirled through the air — baking is how the community supports itself. Had I still been tired at all, the brisk air woke me up like a splash of cold water on the face.

Right then I realized that more important than sleeping in is finding a reason to get up. Christ died to save us from our sins. If He didn’t rise again our faith would be in vain and I suppose that might be a good excuse to press the snooze button. But this isn’t the case. This Easter Christians celebrate Christ’s resurrection from the dead and trust that if we get up each morning to praise Him with our lives we too might have eternal life.

I’d say that’s a pretty good reason to get out of bed.

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