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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

In the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere the Community of Sant’Egidio prays for peace.

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Song of Songs 2,8-14

BELOVED: I hear my love. See how he comes leaping on the mountains, bounding over the hills. My love is like a gazelle, like a young stag. See where he stands behind our wall. He looks in at the window, he peers through the opening. My love lifts up his voice, he says to me, 'Come then, my beloved, my lovely one, come. For see, winter is past, the rains are over and gone. 'Flowers are appearing on the earth. The season of glad songs has come, the cooing of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree is forming its first figs and the blossoming vines give out their fragrance. Come then, my beloved, my lovely one, come. 'My dove, hiding in the clefts of the rock, in the coverts of the cliff, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet and your face is lovely.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

On the threshold of Christmas, the liturgy has us meditate on this passage from the Song of Songs: "Look, he comes...he stands behind our wall." The scene describes a beloved woman imagining that her lover has come to her house and is looking through the lattices to see her. He asks her to come out and enjoy the beauty of spring: "Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away." The beloved man repeats these words twice, so greatly does he desire her. It is an exhortation to encounter the beloved, to welcome the Lord who comes to visit the earth. Often in the Song of Songs, the lovers go outside, or they imagine doing so. It is as if they are going into the Garden of Eden, which is filled with only beautiful, perfumed, fruit-bearing plants, and inhabited only by harmless animals, lacking teeth and claws, a place where even the rain is something that has just passed and made the flowers bloom. The woman abandons her reluctance, like a dove leaving its nest in the clefts of a rock. The lover wants to see her face and hear her voice. These images describe God’s desire for us. Yes, it is God’s desire to encounter men and women and save them. This is the meaning of the Christmas we are preparing to celebrate. Once again, it is the Lord who takes the initiative and pursues Israel. He stands at the door; he is about to be born. Like a young man in love he begs us to come out of ourselves and welcome him. The Targum paraphrases the passage "When those of the House of Israel dwelt in Egypt, their laments reached Heaven...And the Lord seized the day fixed for the merits of the Patriarchs who are similar to mountains...and he looked through the windows, peeking through the shutters and sees the blood of the sacrifice of the Passion and he had pity on us...and when it was morning, he said to me: ‘Rise up, assembly of Jerusalem, my delight...and distance yourself from the slavery of the Egyptians." Origen links the scene to Christ after he had risen from the dead, and has him say: "Rise up, my dove because look, winter has passed...risen from the dead I have calmed the storm and brought back peace." God’s love is shocking: He is ready to come among humanity, and he asks us to welcome him, to let him see our faces, to come out of the clefts of the rocks of our selfishness and the hiding places of our slavery. It is not the request of a gentleman, or a request made out of respect or gratitude. It is the request of a God who is in love with us, who begs for our love. It is the hidden mystery of Christmas.

Prayer for peace