There are times when I am awakened in those hours between dusk and dawn as my half of the earth slumbers on in its nightly unconsciousness and all is still and dark. Sometimes it is from a restlessness of the heart when an issue or a memory from a recent interchange with another is lurking at the surface of my thinking and some sorting needs to be done. But there are other times when it is as if I wasn’t really sleeping at all and even if I had been, someone had roused me with a calm and gentle awakening, calling me from my bed in that pre-dawn dimness of my room to prayer, reflection or to just ‘be’ in that moment. At those times when I am not worrying or troubled by something, I rather treasure these risings from sleep as personal, intimate moments within the silent presence of the Lord. It is holy, but not exactly prayer. It is a wordless realization of the fact of my existence, not in some void of space and time, but the consciousness that I exist in this space and this time, here, now, right where I am at the moment. I consider these times gifts when they are not accompanied by a strong and nagging desire within myself to get back to sleep, when they are times of placid inner peace and communion with my God.
It is often at these times when I think about my many blessings – my family, close friends, this parish, priesthood, the gift of faith, good health, or the overall sense that people I have met can be so wonderful in a world where often ‘wonderful’ only conjures up images of Louis Armstrong’s blissful view of a loving, peaceful world where everyone gets along – though I know differently. Sometimes my thoughts turn to the problems and situations of others when, as I consider my own beatitude, I am so keenly aware of the troubles they have or are experiencing and how I would love to be able to ‘fix them’, yet know that I can’t.
I believe that it is in these moments of solitude when I am closest to the true experience of the contemplative; where the mind works and studies the stuff of existence itself and is led to the palpable presence of the veritable God of Jesus Christ.
In the hours of night when this side of the world slumbers- when I am given over to thought more than sleep, I have a vivid sense that I abide with the Lord and He with me. Yet this basking in the silent but sensed presence of the Lord, rather than bringing me an overall sense of inner peace, often is an occasion for me to give pause to my life thus lived and take stock. Most of our lives are filled with a hundred things we are supposed to pack into one day and so often the only times we slow down are when we are forced to do so, either by illness and exhaustion or by some outside incident or loss which forces us to stop and smell the roses.
I cherish these moments of contemplation and visitation when I know I am ‘in tune’ with the Lord’s voice. (Fr. Charles)