Sunday, November 10, 2019

The Present Moment Is Eternity
- Following the Rhythm of The Year of the Lord

"The Liturgical Year is the supreme vehicle for transmitting the divine life manifested in Jesus."

- Father Thomas Keating
The Mystery of Christ

Recently, I wrote this post, and then today I happened upon an old journal (from ten years ago), where I had written these words (in italics at the end of the post), a passage from the book, Holidays and Holy Nights: Celebrating Twelve Seasonal Festivals of the Christian Year by Christopher Hill. This is the blurb from Amazon;

"For many people the chaos of fifty-hour work weeks and the demands of family have created a hectic, routine-driven life. Time itself becomes a conveyor belt moving us continuously from one demand to the next and year-to-year. Holidays and Holy Nights offers an escape from the conveyor-belt life and introduces us to the cyclical and deeply spiritual Christian liturgical year."

That one line about "time moving us continuously from one demand to the next."  I could have written that, and I guess I kind of did.

It was this book, that I first happened upon quite by accident at the library, that first introduced me to The Liturgical Year, or as I like to call it, The Year of the Lord. And though I am not Catholic, back then I began in earnest to seek out all the information I could find on the subject. I even prayerfully considered converting to Catholicism for a few years, but for personal reasons decided it was not the right choice for me. And yet I remained enamored by the idea of the year following a beautiful cycle that leads us through the story of the life of Christ. And so I borrowed, a feast here, a novena there, and incorporated them in my personal faith. I introduced my family to the beautiful season of Advent and Lent, which enriched Christmas and Easter with such beauty and meaning. And while we still observe both, in recent years I've lost rhythm with many of the other beautiful elements that for me, ground and sanctify life.

In reading this passage again I began to realize that this is part of the story in my journey to lead a slower, simpler, authentic and intentional life, and I'm going to be devoting some time to reacquainting myself with seasons, rituals and traditions (I have some wonderful Catholic friends who are inspiring), and weave them into the fabric of my days, celebrating the Savior and all the small moments that make His love truly tangible.

For now, I wanted to leave this beautiful passage here for you to read and ponder. Perhaps it will not hold the same meaning, but I do hope you will be blessed by it.

"The whole point of the year of the Lord is that there is more than one way to experience time. The understanding of time that most people live with is only one way to experience it. We could call it the worldly or profane understanding of time. It is an image of time as a straight horizontal line with a middle point, where we stand, called the present. This line is always moving past us like a conveyor belt. On the left is the past, where the present moments constantly flow and immediately cease to exist. On the right is the future, which is always moving toward the present, but never actually arrives.

The model is almost completely abstract. In other words, we never actually experience any of it. The present is gone before the we are even aware of it, and the past and future lie outside our grasp. Anxiety is built into it. Each human possess only a limited quantity of their kind of time, and it is constantly passing us by, never to return.

This view of time is not necessarily bad. It can be a useful tool. All human progress, in a sense, depends on it. But it's not the whole or most important part of the picture. It is not the way we experience time. Above and below this abstract, one dimensional timeline is, well, reality. This is the world we actually experience, in which we live and move and have our being; as Paul said, the world of "I am", as God introduced Himself to Moses. The present moment is eternity.

For most of human history people experienced time very differently. The pattern was not a line, but a circle or cycle. The cycles of the sun, moon and stars; of the seasons; of the life, death, and birth of plants, animals and human beings. Everything went away, but then it some way everything always came back.We can be sure that people living with this image of time still got anxious about things, but anxiety wasn't built into the system itself.

This image of the cycle contains a lot of truth. It expands the one dimensional into a two dimensional circle and so takes in a lot more of reality. It is less abstract than the line, truer to experience, and incorporates the fundamental pattern of creation. Years, seasons, months, weeks, days and hours, all come from this model of time. Birth, life, death, and rebirth are all in it. What it doesn't include is the possibility for growth. In the cycle, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Year of the Lord, the christian understanding of time, is a variation on the cycle. The timeline, as we've said, is a one dimensional model. The circle is two dimensional. The Year of the Lord, is three dimensional. It is modeled on the spiral, a circle that grows outward and upward. It grows in a vertical direction as well as horizontally, combining the straight line of past, present, and future with the height and depth of eternity. Like a spiraling tornado, it sucks one dimensional time up into three dimensional reality. It uses time to break us out of time. It hallows and sacrileges time and transforms it into eternity. Year, season, month, week, day and hour, all make concentric circles that lead deeper and deeper into the center, the present moment, where we live in the presence of God. The present is the presence, and the present time ripples out again, connecting us with time all the cosmos."

- Christopher Hill
Holidays and Holy Nights


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