The Sun that Bids Us Rest is Waking, Our Brethren ‘neath the Western Sky: A Meditation on the Movement and Mystery of Time


It is late on the east coast of the United States, the 23rd hour (11 pm) of the day we have called June 15. But where my Uncle, Fr. George Pope lives, (he is a priest in Bangladesh), not only is it June 16th, but it has been so for some time. It is 9 in the morning there and they are likely arriving at work just now; on a day that has yet to begin for me. Further to the east, in Sydney Australia, it is 1pmĀ  in the afternoon of June 16th and they are returning from lunch; before I have even gone to bed. In Wellington, New Zealand, their work day is almost over, it is 3pm and many are looking to wrap things up in couple of hours and head home from a day that doesn’t even exist for me yet.

Time, what could be simpler than for me to look at the clock and say, It is 11pm June 15. And yet what could be more mysterious than a simple thing like 11pm, June 15; for time interacts with space and folds back on itself. It is simply a human reckoning of a mysterious passage.

And yet the mystery is also beautiful. At any given time some of us sleep, and some of us are at noonday. There is a wonderful verse in an old English hymn that says:

The sun that bids us rest is waking
Our brethren ‘neath the western sky,
And hour by hour fresh lips are making
Thy wondrous doings heard on high.

Other verses beautifully say:

We thank Thee that thy Church unsleeping,
While earth rolls onward into light,
Through all the world her watch is keeping,
And rests not now by day or night

As o’er each continent and island,
The dawn leads on another day,
The voice of prayer is never silent,
nor dies the strain of praise away

Magnificent lines, a beautiful and poetic description of the Church, always praising, always sighing, always at worship. While some sleep, the praises continue. One of the psalms says, Let the name of the Lord be praised, both now and forevermore. From the rising of the sun to the going down of the same, the name of the Lord is to be praised. The Lord is exalted over all the nations. (Psalm 113:2-4). And yet the praises never end for the sun is always rising, even as it is setting somewhere on this earth.

And Malachi, prophesying the glory of the Mass celebrated worldwide says, My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD Almighty. (Mal 1:11). At any one time, Mass is surely being offered somewhere on the orb of this earth. The Liturgy of the Hours too, always uttering forth from the lips of the faithful, somewhere on this spinning orb of the earth. Yes, in the mystery of time this planet of ours is a perpetual place of praise. And our praises join the perpetual praises of heaven for as the Liturgy proclaims (in the words of the new translation): And so, Angels and Archangels, with Thrones and Dominions, and with all the host and Powers of heaven, as we sing the hymn of your glory, without end we acclaim: Holy, Holy Holy Lord God of hosts…..

Yes, the mystery of time and our praises caught up in the ever moving sweep of time. What St Paul says to us as individuals is also fulfilled by the worldwide Church. And the advice is so simple and yet profound. He says, Pray always (1 Thess 5:17)

Photo Credit: Snapshot from

Here is the full hymn (The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, is Ended) that was quoted above. The full text is here: The Day Thou Gavest.

6 Replies to “The Sun that Bids Us Rest is Waking, Our Brethren ‘neath the Western Sky: A Meditation on the Movement and Mystery of Time”

  1. The mystry of tIme….behind, forward, above. Below and present at one time…awesome

  2. Thank you for this meditation. I think of these same things frequently. Years ago I read The Confessions of St. Augustine and his book on Time and Eternity boggled my mind! We live in mystery.

  3. Thank you for the wonderful pictures and thoughts Msgr. Pope. Time, the greatest mystery of mankind. The human mind can barely grasp the idea of a timeless existance without beginning or end. Even to travel in space and return would change the movement of time as we live it. God`s creation never ceases to amaze.

  4. Time is one of those unusual english words that when spelled backwards seems to express the opposit end of their spectrum. (God-dog),(live-evil),(time-emit).Emit- to send out matter or energy. Time is it’s coming and going. It reminds me of that Beatles song, Fool On The Hill.

  5. I love to think that the Mass is being said somewhere in the world at any time of my day or night, a constant raising up of our souls to God,and that we are part of the one great universal Sacrifice. Thank you for a lovely meditation.

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