People often tell me I am moving backwards and going backwards. No, it is all the same. Faith, piety, prayer, fasting, patience, chastity, charity, psalm singing, the Eucharist; all of this has increased rather than diminished. So therefore, you find Zechariah uttering a prophecy in the form of a hymn after his long silence, and reflecting on all the hopes and dreams of generations after generations of fathers and mothers. “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, he has come to his people and set them free. He has raised up for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David. Through his holy prophets, he has promised from old…”
It is the morning prayer of the Church. We are at dawn, we are at the beginning, we are at the opening up of the heavens, and the Savior descends. Some might look at what Zechariah said, and think it a bit ridiculous that Zechariah might speak thus to an eight day-old infant. But he had heard the Magnificat of Mary and he had the disposition to rejoice as well, and he takes us all the way through; all the way to the promises of the Old Testament, and then, he changes this one thing. It is not “longed for, off in the future,” it is here and now. It has been accomplished. The Dawn from on high shall break upon us.
And so, the Church –all of you, and all of us, and everybody who has been here for the last hundred years, or everybody who has been in the Catholic Church for the last two thousand years – these are the words that form our prayer every morning, because every morning we are at the beginning again. The dawn has broken upon us, and none of us has a grasp of the end of the day. We do not know what this day is going to bring, but we know that God has visited His people; we know that we are free, we know that we are saved, we know that we are loved.
We do not have a clue about the end of the day. I know what my schedule is, I know what I am supposed to be doing, but God may have other plans. Has it not been wonderful? We are ready now, we are ready for this. We are ready for the experience, yet we still have not quite grasped; actually, we are still not amazed enough.
So, Zechariah has faith now, after nine months of silence, to say to us – Look, look at what is coming. The past is now present. The future is now here. We head toward the eighth day.
When you come to Sunday Mass, you think it is either the beginning of the week or the end of the week; either the first day of the week or the seventh day of the week. Actually, Monday feels like the first day of the week, does it not? So that would make Sunday the seventh day of the week, except, Sunday is the first day of the week in the Scriptures, and it is the eighth day of the week. The eighth day is outside of time. When we are here at the Eucharist, we are at the crib. We are there when the angel announces to Mary, we are there when Zechariah utters his Benedictus – Blessed be the Lord! We are there when Jesus raises the dead and cures the sick. We are present when the Wise Men come; all of it, in God’s eternal “now” – the eighth day. This is the moment when the blood and water flows from the heart of Christ as a font of mercy for all of us. This is the moment; the eighth day outside of time, and on our lips must be this prayer: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, he has come to his people and set them free!”