The birds that sing in the trees around our inner city courtyard bless us in early morning. Another blessing is Thomas Merton: a book of hours, complied by Kathleen Deignan from his writings. (Notre Dame: Sorin Books, 2007). The two blessings come together in this psalm from the Sunday dawn office in the book.
The first chirps of the waking birds mark the "point vierge" of the dawn under a sky as yet without real light, a moment of awe and inexpressible innocence, when the Father in perfect silence opens their eyes. They speak to Him, not with fluent song, but with an awakening question that is their dawn state, their state at the "point vierge."
Their condition asks if it is time for them to "be"? He answers "Yes."
Then they one by one wake up, and become birds. They manifest themselves as birds, beginning to sing. Presently they will be fully themselves, and will even fly.
Meanwhile, the most wonderful moment of the day is that when creation in its innocence asks permission to "be" once again, as it did on the first morning that ever was.
All wisdom seeks to collect and manifest itself at that blind sweet point. Man’s wisdom does not succeed, for we have fallen into self mastery and cannot ask permission of anyone. We face our mornings as men of undaunted purpose. We know the time and we dictate the terms. We know what time it is.
For the birds there is not a time that they tell, but the virgin point between darkness and light, Between nonbeing and being.
So they wake: first the catbirds and cardinals. Later the song sparrows and the wrens. Last of all the doves and the crows.
Here is an unspeakable secret: paradise is all around us and we do not understand. It is wide open. The sword is taken away, but we do not know it: we are off "one to his farm and another to his merchandise."
Lights on. Clocks ticking. Thermostats working. Stoves cooking. Electric shavers filling radios with static.
"Wisdom," cries the dawn deacon, but we do not attend.