Let us arise, then, at last, for the Scripture stirs us up, saying, “Now is the hour for us to rise from sleep”. Let us open our eyes to the deifying light, let us hear with attentive ears the warning which the divine voice cries daily to us, “Today if you hear His voice, harden not your hearts”. And again, “Whoever has ears to hear, hear what the Spirit says to the churches”. And what does He say? “Come, My children, listen to Me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord”. “Run while you have the light of life, lest the darkness of death overtake you”.
For St. Benedict going through life without having holiness as the goal is the same as being asleep. The life we live, when it is not the Way, is a dream, a pale shadow of what true life really is. A life mired in sin keeps us from living a truly human life, as the Lord intended when He fashioned our First Parents. To awaken from this sleep we have to open our eyes to the deifying light. We have already received this deifying light at our Baptism. In the Patristic period it was not uncommon even to call it Illumination. At Baptism we are made anew. Having been plunged into Christ’s death, we arise with Him and in Him, in His glorious resurrection, filled with His spirit, He who is the Light of the World. To paraphrase the Church Fathers – “God became man so that man might become god”. This is the outrageous claim of Christianity. Holiness is not some legal fiction which makes God not see our sins while we remain the same; no, we are truly transformed, at the center of our being, into something new. The older prayers of the blessing of the baptismal font during the Paschal Vigil reveal this reality to us:
May He by a secret mixture of His divine virtue render this water fruitful for the regeneration of men, to the end that a heavenly offspring, conceived by sanctification, may emerge from the immaculate womb of this divine font, reborn a new creature: […]
We participate in the life of the Holy Trinity. Most people (and probably the majority of Catholics) think that Christianity is just an ethical system (“after all, wasn’t Jesus just another spiritual teacher?”). There is an ethical dimension to it, to be sure, but to limit one’s understanding of it to the ethical is to miss out on the bigger picture. Yet though we have been baptized, how many times have we not fallen back into our old sins, into old habits? How many times have we not forgotten the great gift that we have been given and let ourselves be lulled back to sleep by sin’s deceitful tongue? Because of this we must awaken again and again, as many times as is necessary.
In this section of the Prologue we are enjoined to take action. Our salvation is something to be worked out. Our eyes have been opened to the truth; now we must act on that truth. And when must we act? Sin tells us tomorrow: “There is time for change tomorrow. Enjoy this just one last time; get it out of your system.” And while we let ourselves be deceived into amending our life tomorrow, we sin again not realising we are only strengthening the bonds of servitude by habit. No, we are to act today; we are to act NOW. Who knows if we will live to see tomorrow? Do we even know if we’ll live to see the end of this day? If we hear His voice (and He is always calling for us to return) we must act on it without delay. Now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation (2 Cor 6:2). Again the theme of hearing and obeying.
Living in the world there are so many distractions that keep us asleep. Why can I not start working on my salvation now? Is that game I want to watch that much more important? Or perhaps that new car/house/…? Is my job more important? Perhaps the cares in my life are too great to allow me to be bothered? I do not act, and suddenly the darkness of death has set in and it is too late, because I have been taken in my sleep.