Last week I reflected on the idea of prayer as "stretching yourself out toward God." Let me tell you
The first canticle, from Jeremiah, goes like this:
It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors the day I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. They broke my covenant, though I was their master—oracle of the LORD.
But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days—oracle of the LORD. I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
They will no longer teach their friends and relatives, “Know the LORD!” Everyone, from least to greatest, shall know me—oracle of the LORD—for I will forgive their iniquity and no longer remember their sin. (Jeremiah 31:31 ff)
Here was God stretching toward us! I began praying the canticles with an eye toward watching for God's reaching out toward me, rather than the other way around. Of course! Isn't this the whole story of salvation - God's loving pursuit of us? Whenever we creatures pray, isn't that a response to God's invitation through grace? St. Paul tells us that we don't even know how to pray, but that God's Spirit has to pray in us.
Think about the Incarnation: isn't that precisely God perfectly "stretching Himself out" toward us?
All of these thoughts were filling my heart and my head as we stood and sang Lauds. Our Morning Praise always ends with singing the Benedictus, Zechariah's canticle of praise at the birth of John the Baptist (Lk 1:68-79). I've sung this song every morning for 46 years, but I was singing with a new awareness this morning. Here are the words, about a God who stretches out toward us:
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
for he has visited and brought redemption to his people.
He has raised up a horn for our salvation
within the house of David his servant,
even as he promised through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old:
salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us,
to show mercy to our fathers
and to be mindful of his holy covenant
and of the oath he swore to Abraham our father,
and to grant us that,
rescued from the hand of enemies,
without fear we might worship him
in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord* to prepare his ways,
to give his people knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our Gods
by which the daybreak from on high will visit us
to shine on those who sit in darkness and death’s shadow,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.
When we realize that there's stretching going on at God's end before there is at ours, we can understand why an old Jewish mystic once said, "Prayer is the moment when heaven and earth kiss each other."