Lately I've been praying Matins out on the back porch. The sun comes up and the light of my candles in the darkness fades as the sky pales, yellow, gray and purple behind the familiar tree branch lace. The birds join me on some days, but not this morning. I could see my breath in the cold, like clouds of dubious incense.
And these prayers have become my Advent journey. It seems particularly fitting that Matins prayers start out with the "end of the story": Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among me. (three times). Followed by: O Lord, Thou shalt open my lips, and my mouth shall declare Thy praise. (twice).
Ok, so there's an element of faith there, and dependence on God's work, and not my own. I need that, early in my morning. Lately I've been all tangled up in need of God, snarled feelings and stressed. Even first thing in the morning. I'm glad His mercy is new every morning. It is God who opens my lips.
What follows next in Matins are the "six psalms". The six psalms literally lead us from our desperate need of God, through to a declaration of hope and faith, and then praise, and supplication. They are (LXX numbering): Psalm 3 "O Lord, why are the multiplied that afflict me...", Paslm 37 " O Lord, rebuke me not in Thine anger, nor chasten me in Thy wrath...", Psalm 62 "O God my God, unto Thee I rise early at dawn..." (an old favorite of mine!), Psalm 87 "O Lord God of my salvation, by day have I cried and by night before Thee...", Psalm 102 "Bless the Lord, O my soul...", Psalm 142 "O Lord, hear my prayer, give ear unto my supplication in Thy truth...". After this the "Glory to the Father..." and then three times Alleluia (which, one must not forget means "praise the Lord").
Then Matins leads us towards a declaration of the salvation of the Lord: His coming in the flesh. "God is the Lord and hath appeared unto us. Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord." There is nothing broken in the human condition that the incarnation of God does not begin to fix. He is our salvation and our hope. Human nature joined with the Divine nature, enabling us now to also become partakers of His divinity by grace... This is followed, on ordinary days by the Magnificat of Mary: Her declaration of praise and prophecy as she receives Christ into her womb, the God made flesh, Immanuel. "My soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my savior..." And so the advent journey is fulfilled in this short service done each morning with a conclusion of the Doxology. We come full circle and declare at the end that which we brought to mind at the beginning:
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will among men.
We praise Thee, we bless Thee, we worship Thee, we glorify Thee, we give thanks to Thee for Thy great glory.
O Lord, Heavenly King, God the Father Almighty: O Lord, the Only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ; and O Holy Spirit. O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father, that takest away the sin of the world, have mercy on us; Thou that takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer; Thou that sittest at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us. For Thou only art holy, Thou only art the Lord, Jesus Christ, to the glory of God the Father, Amen.
Every day will I bless Three, and I will praise Thy name for ever, yea, for ever and ever.
Vouchsafe, O Lord to keep us this day without sin. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, the God of our fathers, and praised and glorified is Thy name unto the ages. Amen.
Let Thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we have hoped in Thee. Blessed art Thou, O Lord, teach me Thy statutes. (thrice)
Lord, Thou hast been our refuge in generation and generation. I said: O Lord, have mercy on me, heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee. O Lord, unto Thee have I fled for refuge, teach me to do Thy will, for Thou art my God; for in Thee is the fountain of life, in Thy light shall we see light. O continue Thy mercy unto them that know Thee.
Holy God, Holy mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us. (thrice)
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.
Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.
Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.
Today is salvation come unto the world; let us sing to Him Who arose from the tomb, and is the Author of our life. For having destroyed death by death, He hath given us the victory and great mercy. " (Jordanville Prayer Book, pp. 93-95)
And it ends with the cross and the resurrection. The whole story. So even as during Advent we anticipate the joy of his coming, the hope, a newborn baby, even here there is a cross, and even here there is His resurrection.
It just all makes me think: How very very good God is!