Now, with hearts free from fear…

With my sisters I’ve proclaimed the Benedictus, Zechariah’s Canticle, each morning for five years. And in these past few weeks, the words are hitting home in new ways. The canticle, based on Zechariah’s prophesy in Luke 1:68-79, follows both Mary’s own canticle, the Magnificat, and the birth of John the Baptist, his son.

With so many parts of life in transition, in liminal space, in uncertainty right now; the general state of affairs across the globe; as well as anything else that enters my heart-space at any given moment, anxiety and fear often creep in, too. I was feeling particularly anxious and fearful one morning the other week as we all made the Sign of the Cross and began singing in choruses. Then, in the third stanza of the Benedictus, it was our turn again. We proclaimed:
Now, with hearts free from fear,
we stand in your presence all our days,
holy and acceptable to you,
O loving Creator.
And that was it. That was the answer. We stand in God’s presence, our hearts free from fear. As if I didn’t already know that truth.
But, it’s not really that easy. Yes, I know for certain that it’s not that easy. Standing constantly in the Holy Presence, much less walking in it, is far from a given, even for those of us who commit our lives and make vows to try to do so faithfully and daily. But I wondered how I hadn’t been touched by those words in such a significant way before…you know…having sung or heard them approximately 2,555 times prior.
Perhaps that’s the gift of the quotidian practice of attentiveness and intentionality.
My freedom from fear, from useless worry, from anxiety comes when I live openly and honestly in God’s presence. God acts as my salvation from the hands of anything less than Love. And even better than that, my open and honest and sometimes far-from-perfect living in that presence is both holy and acceptable. What a message to hear and savor each day during these months that have stretched us in copious demanding and unique ways.
But, it doesn’t stop there. In this particular translation, the final stanza affirms the steadfastness of God’s love this way:
In your tender compassion
the morning sun will rise upon us,
giving light to those in darkness
and guiding us in ways of peace.

(Text by Jean Wolbert, OSB)
Here comes the sun, indeed.
Let us walk in the holy presence.