Keeping sacred time with saints and holy ones of God
When I was raising my family, it was my habit to stay up late at night, beyond the time when everyone else had gone to bed. It stemmed from having lots of little children in the house and very little quiet time, except when 12 little feet were tucked under the blankets.
So it was not unusual to find me at the piano, practicing a choral piece or writing a story at midnight. What I still find amazing is that, after what seemed like only an hour, I got up to make some tea and discovered it was almost daybreak.
Absorbed in something I love, there is often no sense of time.
Today, life is much different.
Today, for so many of us, relegated to our homes without a sense of when life will return to some form of normalcy, time becomes the enemy. We are stuck, overwhelmed with myriad cares and responsibilities. Time seems to be mocking us, an ever-present reminder that we have no escape.
I am reminded of Martha and Mary when Jesus came to visit. “Martha, burdened with much serving, came to Him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.’”
The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, and it will not be taken from her.”
Jesus was inviting Martha to enter into sacred time.
Our understanding of time is often more linear. It pulls us along, often at a pace that seems out of control. We struggle to be masters of those precious moments, sensing that, in addition to life and faith, time is one of the greatest gifts we have.
Time embraces life and nudges it to fullness; the flower from seed to petals; the butterfly from larvae to graceful wings; the child from embryo to adulthood. And within the womb of time rest the experiences, the formative encounters, which make us unique individuals.
Perhaps, most profoundly, time provides the opportunity for forgiveness, for do-overs, for loving better; for surely, one of the deepest losses we face is the loss of time with a loved one. And when that loss is spurred by death, our lives are never the same.
Still, in the face of our mortality and heavily engaged in the temporal affairs of our lives, we often find the moments of our days slipping away, unnoticed and unfulfilled because we are caught up in too many things.
How, then, can we reclaim time as a good? By accepting God’s invitation to enter sacred time.
Sacred time has the feel of those experiences of absorption, where the linear ticking of seconds disappears and our feelings of anxiety are balanced by a sense of peace.
Being mindful of the sacredness of time encourages us to be mindful of God. Engaging in the rituals of our faith, surrounded by sacred symbols drawn from our ordinary lives – bread, wine, water, oil, flame – reassures us that all of life is sacred. The rhythm of the liturgical year reminds us that life must have a meaningful rhythm as well.
We may turn also, to the wisdom of the saints, like Benedict of Nursia, whose Benedictine Rule included a construct of time that allowed for a necessary balance of prayer, work and leisure.
For St. Benedict, the ordinary was so charged with the sacred that he wrote, “Regard all utensils as if they were the sacred vessels of the altar.”
Benedict wove within the lives of his monks, times of prayer throughout the day, understanding that when hearts and minds are so often turned toward God, an awareness of God at all times and in all places grows.
Or St. Teresa of Avila, perhaps my favorite saint, whose words of wisdom grace a handmade clock that sits on my desk to remind me of how best to navigate time: “Let nothing upset you, let nothing startle you. All things pass; God never changes.”
Servant of God Dorothy Day offers this encouragement: “If you are rushed for time, sow time and you will reap time. Go to church and spend a quiet hour in prayer. You will have more time than ever and your work will get done.”
While we may not be able to physically go to church just yet, our hearts may always serve as a place of prayer and worship of God, making every moment sacred time.
—Originally published in the Summer 2020 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.