Sunrise or sunset?

How do sunrises and sunsets correlate to the spiritual life? 

A few days ago I had a commitment that started rather early in the morning. This required me to get up earlier than usual and as I opened the curtains in the dining room, it was still quite dark outside. I assembled my breakfast, tucked in to eat, and as I raised my head from the grace before meals prayer, the sky had been transformed into a beautiful kaleidoscope of color above the trees. I am not a morning person, at least not by choice. I usually grumble when I have to get up before the sun has risen. It just seems too early for me. Yet as I took in the splendor of the color display, I realized the only reason I was able to enjoy this celebration of nature was because I did get up early enough to see it. 

The colors of the sunrise made me start thinking about sunsets, which seem way more popular. Sunsets seem a much easier sell: a sunset dinner cruise, a hotel room with a sunset view, or a house for sale may boast of a deck with a view of the sunset. Why? Because most people are awake when the sun sets. In our world of artificial light, we’re no longer tied to the rhythm of the sun in its rotation, but rather the 24-hour measure of time to which the world subscribes. If our schedule allows, we can sleep right through the sun rising. Schedules may require us to arise before the sun, but in the hectic rush to get ready in the morning, we may not spare the time to sit and watch the sun come up, even while multitasking by eating breakfast. Sunsets can get ignored on a regular basis as well, but if we were going to choose to watch one of them, it would probably be a sunset, since it wouldn’t require too much extra effort on our part. 

Sunrises can be compared to the spiritual life and sunsets to the secular life. We live in a secular world, there’s no escaping it. It’s very easy to focus on those things important to the secular life since we are bombarded with messages everywhere we turn: on billboards while driving down the road, on television, in social media, in entertainment, etc. But if we want to have a spiritual life, it’s not enough to live each day, but rather we need to make a special effort to seek a relationship with God. Just like if we want to see the sun at its rising we need to get up while it’s still dark, a relationship with God calls us to step out of the everyday and converse with Him in prayer. It’s taking action to do His will. It’s being open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t take much to see the sun rise, just a commitment to waking up early enough and to take the time to look at the horizon and the sky. Similarly, living a spiritual life doesn’t take any more than being committed to spending time with God and allowing ourselves to be transformed into the best version of ourselves. 

A sunrise promises a new day, gives light for us to see, brings feelings of life and hope just like the spiritual life. A sunset can be equal in its beauty, but when the last of the light fades, we are in darkness, the temperature usually begins to drop, bringing a sense of an ending and of time slipping away. A life lived in a purely secular fashion can seem just as beautiful, but the light does fade and that life is entombed into the dark. Each day we have a choice to live our life like the sunrise or the sunset. May our lives be lived like heralds of the sun bringing light and color into a world of sin and darkness. 

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