Sunday, March 16, 2008


The Present is the point at which time touches eternity. The Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most completely temporal part of time--for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays. ~C.S.Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

We are heliotropic. We were made for the light and naturally turn our lives into the path of the sun to receive the kiss of the first rays of dawn. Several years ago, I watched the marvel of sunrise as the rays of the sun broke across the 12,000 foot eastern rim of the Swiss Alps. A maiden, a monk and an ogre, known as Jungfrau, Monch and Eiger, stand guard over a wonderland of beauty in the Bernase-Oberland region of Switzerland.

From my vantage on the balcony of a Swiss chalet in Gimmelwald, at elevation of 4600 feet, dawn broke over the icy tips of the highest peaks. I turned that early morning from making coffee and enjoying morning mediation within the chalet to witness the return of the light into the valley. Heliotropism: our soul’s turning and returning toward the sun.

On our alpine hikes later that day above Gimmelwald, we noticed a wide variety of wildflowers with faces turned sunward. Paradise Lilies, Alpenroses, Anemones, Silver Thistle, Eidelweiss, Wild Raspberry, all welcoming the light, opening their petals to the life-giving radiance of the morning sun. One of the most democratic of movements on plant earth, the sunrise splashes warmth and new life on the grateful an ungrateful. As Jesus was known to say, [God] causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45).

The slight movement towards the light of day, heliotropism, opens our lives to receive a gift, the gift of radiance. I seldom arise before dawn. Every time that miracle takes place I am filled with a sense of wonder and delight at the awakening of a new day. Every year, I carry with me a single sentence of the Bible, mulling over this verse for a whole year. My verse for this year speaks of the coming of Christ, as “the Dawn from on high”, shining upon a darkened world. By the tender mercy of our God, by which the Dawn will come to us from heaven, to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace (Luke 1:78-79).

Every year, early on Easter morning, I awaken in the night, an hour or two before dawn, and head up Ecola Park Road to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ at our annual Community Sunrise Service at 6:30 in the morning. This service takes place on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, at the time when the sun breaks over the eastern rim of the coastal range. A hundred or more of us of us gather to welcome the new day and to celebrate the new hope found in the "Dawn come to us from heaven to shine upon us living in darkness".

Our main work on Easter morning is simply to turn to receive a gift. We become like yellow mountain daisies, with faces turned toward the radiance, allowing our lives to be filled and renewed by the light at dawn. With the ancient Psalmist, we too awaken the dawn to sing of this sacred turning toward the Light, the Light of the risen Christ, bringing new life and hope to the world at Easter.

We feast on the abundance of your house, You give us drink from your river of delights; for with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light (Psalm 36:8-9).

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