For night alone that rests our thought
For quiet dawn that lights our trail
For evening fire that warms and cheers
For each repast that fuels our work
We give thanks, O Lord.
The grace channels the poetry of the Pre-Ordeal, Ordeal, and Brotherhood Ceremonies. It models Meteu's explanation from the Brotherhood Ceremony of the hailing sign, which "will attract little or no attention from those who are not members." On a literal level, the OA grace acknowledges the rest of sleep, the break of day, our daily journey on the trail of life, our cheerful fellowship about an evening fire, our food and our work to serve others, all for which we are thankful.
A unique feature of the OA grace, Ordeal members who may hear this grace for the first time as they eat their evening meal after the Ordeal Ceremony, will have just experienced their night alone. Challenged by Kichkinet in the Pre-Ordeal to "lift your thoughts like sparks" and later "face the isolation," they know the power of the night. So too, the "night alone" refers to the first Vigil, the experience of Dr. Goodman on Devil's Tea Table in August 1915, and every Vigil Honor night alone since then.
In line 2, the focus on a "trail" refers to Meteu’s explanation of the Legend in the Ordeal ceremony where "Off upon the trail they started, Old Chingachgook and young Uncas..." The trail is a path through the wilderness, as well as our uncharted course through life, a journey that everyone makes every day following each night of sleep and the dawn that follows.
The "evening fire" refers to the council fire of the ceremonies. In the Pre-Ordeal Ceremony, Nutiket outlines much of the symbolism of the fire used throughout the Order:
Seek the fire at the center!
Kindle cheerfulness within you!
Gather round your hearts the tinder,
lay the oak and pine together,
kindle all that is within you
with a warm and cheerful spirit.
The spark is there, already glowing,
fan it now, forgetting hunger,
feed it, till it is a fire.
In the Ordeal Ceremony, Allowat Sakima reiterates this thought saying, "Build upon the fire of cheerfulness." The phrase "evening fire" re-emphasizes the OA principle of cheerfulness.
The penultimate line, "For each repast that fuels our work" references our thanks for the meal we are about to eat at the conclusion of the grace, and also acknowledges that food is fuel, a source of energy, as wood is fuel for fire. Our work is our service, service that we together in our brotherhood own. The word "work" incorporates service, the third principle of the Order.
"We give thanks, O Lord" indicates that the prayer is offered by the group acting in concert. "We thank thee, O Lord" repeats the closing phrase common to three of the four graces of the four high adventure bases, namely, the graces for Northern Tier, the Florida Sea Base, Philmont Scout Ranch and the Summit Bechtel Reserve, where the OA has had such a strong presence and rich history with OA High Adventure programs.
The grace alludes to the four tests of the Ordeal and to the characters in the Pre-Ordeal Ceremony who introduce these tests: "night alone" introduced by Kichkinet, day of silence ("quiet dawn") introduced by Meteu, day of labor ("work") introduced by Allowat Sakima and scant food ("repast") introduced by Nutiket. The adjective "our" is used three times in the grace, each time deliberately plural, not the singular "my" or "your" or "his" or "her," to connote the OA principle of "brotherhood," the first principle of the Wimachtendienk, Wingolauchsik, Witahemui.
OA brothers are encouraged to use the grace at mealtimes at Ordeals, fellowship and work weekends, conclaves, annual banquets, trail crew backcountry treks, as well as lodge, section, region and national events. With each repetition, not only do we give thanks for the food that fuels us, but also we rededicate ourselves to our brotherhood of cheerful service.