MATINS – NEW DAYS IN PARADISE
by Robert Hasselblad
When we began Lent on Ash Wednesday, Pastor Ruud noted that for him the important word in the scripture readings and liturgy this year was “we”. We gather to acknowledge our shared mortality, and our shared sinful nature. We gather as people who together die to sin and rise to redemption with and through Christ. We gather as inheritors of the same mercy and grace.
One opportunity for me this year to enter into the “we” of Lent has been a new morning service. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays the church is offering matins at 7:30 AM. And because I am one of those “morning people”, usually up before sunrise this time of year, I’ve taken advantage of these services.
Aside from the different time of day to worship, there is a new awareness of the Lenten journey that has begun to reveal itself through the matins. It comes through the prayer we pray, which begins: “God of all new beginnings, we give thanks to you that last night was not our last night.”
On the first morning this thanks for continued life seemed to reach back many centuries; I felt a link to generations of worshippers far removed, people who had much shorter life spans, and who did not have the medical and technological advantages we do. Yes, I’m sure there were those in the Dark Ages for whom each day was a kind of gift.
For me however, days can run together in unremarkable similarity. My work, five days a week, is much the same as it was four decades ago when I started selling lumber with my father. Weekends find me doing household chores, sharing time with family and tackling obligations that during the week have gone unmet, puttering at hobbies. When people ask me how my day is going, I’m often tempted to answer tongue-in-cheek, “It’s another day in Paradise”.
As we continue to pray this prayer at each matins, it becomes for me the fabric of our gathering. It’s a small group and I look around, wonder, “How do they hear this prayer? What does another day mean to each of them?” I look for seeds of optimism, hope, even joy. And at each successive matins, it is this prayer that I try to lean into, to uncover a kernel of delight in the opportunity of my new day.
Once more our last night was not our “last night”. The individuals gathered together saying this prayer bring together a cumulative “new day”, the shared energy of those who are alive and being opened to God’s grace in Christ together. This is the work of the Spirit that moves in each of us uniquely, but works to move each of us closer to God and to each other.
After the first full week of matins, a bridge begins to form. I move not across days of routine sameness but into and out of a morning awareness of the gift of each day. Now when I pray “Thank you that last night was not our last night” I mentally add, “And let us gain a sense of paradise in your mercy and grace which we share.”