The Wings of The Dawn

November 5, 2016 | Reflections from Sr Antonia

“If I take the wings of the dawn and dwell at the sea’s furthest end
Even there your hand would lead me your right hand would hold me fast.”

Psalm 138

“The wings of the dawn” is the phrase that captivated my attention during Vigils this morning. What does it mean to take the wings of the dawn? What are the wings of the dawn and how do I take them? Am I even meant to take them; or would it not perhaps be better to leave them where they seem to be… at the edge of the magnificent sunrise!

I was, and still am, intrigued, perplexed, amazed and bewildered all at once. I marvelled, not for the first time, at the depth of wisdom held within the plaintive cries of the psalms. What is the message here for me I wondered? Why are these words so insistently tapping at my rather sluggish heart on this early spring morning?

In my search for help I looked at other psalms first and discovered a beautiful “hint”, albeit an unintentional one I would imagine, on the part of the psalmist, in Psalm 41: 9.

“Would he but lighten the day with his mercy,
what praise I would sing in the evening to the Lord God who is life to me”

Psalm 41:9

There is no doubt in my mind that for me now, at this moment, to “take the wings of the dawn” means to allow, and at the same time to receive, an embrace of love; of mercy. The arms of the Father, of the Son and of the Spirit are, simultaneously, the wings of the dawn; they are the mercy and the loving kindness which lightens the day for me.

This might be beginning to sound “all warm and fuzzy” until I mention that the embrace is the one Jesus made all his life… the embrace of the will of his Father. And as we know, this necessarily involved for Jesus, as it will for us, embracing the cross, whilst at the same time allowing ourselves to receive the embrace of the Cross.

“In the end it is a crucifying choice that we have to make:
either the absolute which contents us by enclosing us within ourselves,
or the relationship that will open us to the Infinite, at the cost of wrenching us asunder…”

 An anonymous monk “The Wound of Love; A Carthusian Miscellany”

Daniel Bonnell, a contemporary artist whose paintings inspire, uphold, energise and strengthen my faith in a profound way, expresses this reality for me. With his very kind permission there are two works in particular that I would like to use to illustrate what this moment has revealed to me. The first is his depiction of “The Baptism of Christ”.

The Baptism of The Christ II, a painting by Daniel Bonnell.

I believe that at this moment in Jesus’ life (his Baptism) he embraced the will of his Father for him without knowing what this would entail. He stretched out his arms (wings) to embrace, and at the same time to simultaneously receive, the Father’s will and the comfort and wisdom of the Spirit. It seems to me that this was a prefiguration of his crucifixion.

We too, if we give our assent, stretch out our arms to embrace the Father’s will at the beginning of each new day, “taking the wings of the dawn”. Immediately we do this the Father stretches out his wings so that we can rest on them as he lifts us up and gently carries us throughout the entire day. The wings of the dawn are simply the arms of the Father, Son and Spirit who instantly bear us up and sometimes perhaps “lead us where we would rather not go”. John 21:18.

Will it be to here?

The Beautiful Mess, a painting by Daniel Bonnell.

Am I prepared to embrace this embrace?

If I am, death and the cross will not have the last word for “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes”. Rev: 7:17

And so I can sing with the psalmist:

“Be strong, take courage and hope in the Lord”.