It is late on the east coast of the United States, the 23rd hour (11 pm) of the day we have called March 8. But in Sydney Australia, it is 1pm in the afternoon of March 9 and they finishing lunch; before I have even gone to bed on the previous day. In Wellington, New Zealand, their day is almost over, it is 3pm and many are perhaps pondering dinner plans on 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 March 8. And yet what could be more mysterious than a simple thing like 11pm, March 8; 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)
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.