“What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (Ps. 8:4). Does God have good reason to care about human beings? All beauty, goodness, and truth notwithstanding, the rolling images of human life, broadly speaking and in many details, are not happy. “It is an unhappy business that God has given to human beings to be busy with” (Eccl. 1:13). Life is chasing after the wind, laboring to leave an inheritance to complete strangers. Life is toil and strain, pain and vexation, a restless mind in the night hours. Not so for everyone in every moment. But eventually every person, however unwilling, will sense the gravity of the heart’s descent into despair. “Mortals cannot abide in their pomp; they are like animals that perish” (Ps. 49:12). “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you” (Luke 12:20).
Yet a voice speaks. “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son” (Hos. 11:1). “It was I who taught Ephraim to walk; I took them up in my arms” (Hos. 11:3). “I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love” (Hos. 11:4). “I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks.” This is a different voice, haunting and insistent, the sound wave of no known world. It repeats: I loved and called and led onward; I lifted up and swaddled and fed my child with the milk of sweetness and the bread of love. What I said then I am saying now. Who speaks? Speak! I am bound to hear! I am who I am. My good reason is love.
God has called his people, his children, from the death trap of Egypt. Yet they die in the wilderness, languish and look for other gods. Is this vanity too, going with God? By no means! “If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1). Fallen humanity and nature’s travail signal vanity, and vanity of vanities, but God is no vain thing. “You have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). “Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly” (Col. 3:5). “Renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God” (BCP, p. 302). Renounce evil powers. Give no room and reflection to killing desires. Clothe yourself with the New Being, Christ our Lord. The work is not done. The New Being is being renewed in the renewal of every moment. Vanities persist while Christ renews. How can this be?
The Spirit has taught the Church: “The entire Church of the elect is called the daybreak or the dawn (Job 38:12). … There is something rather subtle which should be examined in the quality of dawn or daybreak. For dawn or daybreak announce that night has indeed passed, and yet they do not show the full brilliance of day. While they drive out the darkness, they receive light. Dawn or daybreak hold light and darkness mixed together. Who are we who follow the Truth in this life? Are we not the dawn and daybreak? … A day will arrive for the sacred Church of the elect when the shadow of sin will no longer touch her” (Gregory the Great, Liber regulae pastoralis 29, 2-4; Patrologia Latina 76, 478-480, my translation).
A new self is being renewed in Christ. Dawn is advancing toward the victory of eternal day.