The Dawn

From Moral Reflection on the Book of Job 29, 2-4 (ca. 595)

The elect of God are on a journey in the darkness of night to the full light of eternity. In this process the Church finds herself led from the night of infidelity to the light of faith, and opened gradually by God to the splendor of his heavenly brightness, in the same way that the dawn yields to the day after the darkness of the night. The Song of Songs says actually: “Who is this who moves forward like the advancing dawn?” Holy Church, inasmuch as she keeps searching for the rewards of eternal life, has been called the dawn. When she turns her back on the darkness of sins, she begins to shine with the light of righteousness.

This reference to the dawn in Scripture conjures up a still more subtle consideration. Although dawn intimates that the night is over, it does not yet proclaim the arrival of the full light of day. While it dispels the darkness and welcomes the light, it holds both of them in tension, the one mixed with the other, as it were. Are not all of us who follow the truth in this life daybreak and dawn? While we do some things which already belong to the light, we are not yet free from the remnants of darkness. In Scripture the Psalmist says to God: “No one living can be justified in your sight.” Scripture also says: “In many ways all of us give offense.”

When Paul writes that “The night is past,” it is interesting to note that he does not add, “the day is come.” But rather, “the day is at hand.” Since he argues that after the night is past, the day has not yet fully come but is rather at hand, he shows that the period before full daylight and after darkness is without doubt the period of dawn and that he sees himself as living in that period.

It will be fully day for the Church of the elect when she is no longer darkened by the shadow of sin. It will be fully day for her when she shines with the perfect brilliance of interior light. This dawn reaches after the brightness of eternal day, that perfect clearness of eternal vision. When the dawn has been brought to that fulfillment, the Church will retain nothing belonging to the darkness of night. In the words of the Psalmist: “My soul thirsts for the living God; when shall I come and see the face of God?” Does he not refer to the effort made by the dawn to reach this place of consummation? Paul himself was hastening to such a place he wrote that he wished to die and to be with Christ. He expressed the same idea when he said: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

St. Gregory the Great (ca. 540-604) served as Bishop of Rome from 586-604, during a series of invasions and political turmoils. He was a skilled administrator and diplomat, as well as a gifted preacher and writer on the spiritual life. The Moral Reflections on the Book of Job, a sprawling commentary on theological and moral subjects, is his great work, compiled during his episcopate. His feast is celebrated on March 12.


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