The 1971 film Fiddler on the Roof, which won an Oscar for best music, featured the moving song Sunrise, Sunset. The scene is a Jewish wedding where the entire community, each holding a candle, processes at sundown to the wedding site where the groom, in black suit and top hat, is waiting for his bride under a canopy. In the darkness, warmly illumined by candlelight, she joins him veiled in white. The rabbi raises the cup of betrothal blessing from which the couple in turn drink before exchanging rings, while the chorus of the song rises:
Sunrise, sunset. Sunrise, sunset, swiftly flow the days.
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers, blossoming even as we gaze.
Sunrise, sunset. Sunrise, sunset, swiftly fly the years.
One season following another, laden with happiness and tears.
Earlier this month, Marcia and I got away to the Upper Peninsula for few days. We stayed with friends who have a home on the west end of Lake Manistique. From that vantage point, the sunrises over the water were spectacular. Each morning the sun quickly burned off the hovering morning mist and filled the sky with rich, pastel colors.
On the way back, we made a short stop in Cheboygan, where we have other friends who have a cottage on Lake Huron. From the shoreline the Mackinac bridge can be seen on a clear day, and the sunsets are frequently red, blazing coals in the reflection on the water, as the big red orb plunges into the lake.
In Psalm 19 we read: “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.” The sun “comes forth like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and like a strong man runs its course with joy.” Thus, we see that the heavens, the sunrises and sunsets “speak” of God’s glory, majesty, and creative beauty.
In Genesis from the very beginning, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” The dignity of the human person is derived from being created in the image and likeness of God (imago dei), and constitutes the foundational principle of the Church’s social teaching. After Adam and Eve’s fall from grace through original sin, and the corruption of the human race, sin and death spread to all. However, God who is rich in mercy gave his Son for us who restored our humanity. Gaudium et spes §22 reads:
To the sons of Adam, He restores the divine likeness which had been disfigured from the first sin onward. Since human nature as He assumed it…has been raised up to a divine dignity…For by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man.
Yes, the glory of God has a human face, and “the glory of God is man fully alive” as St. Irenaeus put it. This is why we respect all human life from conception to natural death, and why we are united in prayer, fasting and action to ensure that unborn children will have the right to see the light of day, and Michigan Ballot Proposal 3 will not.
Some of the most beautiful ‘sunrises’ I take in these days are those of a young family coming forward to communion with babes in arms. Then there are our elderly, homebound ‘sunsets’ that glow with hope for their place at the wedding feast where “the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb.”
P.S. The film clip (Sunrise, Sunset) can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=03rzUoyq9K0