While earth rolls onward into light…A Beautiful Meditation on Time in an Old Hymn


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.

9 Replies to “While earth rolls onward into light…A Beautiful Meditation on Time in an Old Hymn”

  1. Not to mention the seasons and temperatures…as ever onwards.

  2. I thought – if nobody ever could call MALACHI a human being: the angels of children – WORDS OF JESUS – see the FACE OF THE FATHER, but you cannot explain to a child that the earth is moving. I’ m saying this because I came to you on the Internet through a discussion on the VISIO BEATIFICA in America.

  3. Well here, as I have just read your article, it is 3:29pm on another quite warm day (35 degrees celsius). I know the hymn you quote very well because I originate from England but for the last 37 years now, my home is in Perth, Western Australia. It is so true that From the rising of the sun, to the going down thereof praise is rising to Almighty God. Pardon me for changing, ever so slightly, the words you quote from Malachy, because that is how those words ring in my memory and have done so ever since I was a child (now, so very long ago). I have no idea what time it is in Washington….yes I have, it is 2:39 am where you are. I have just looked on another website which gives world times! The world is a wonderful place and God’s power is everywhere!

  4. “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).”–The people who praised the Lord Almighty at the time of this prophecy were just a tiny subset of humanity, but this prophecy came true, even so far that the Lord Almighty is praised on continents that Malachi didn’t even no existed at the time he made this prophecy. For some reason, this guy, I think he name is Dr. David Anders, was able to bring home to me how startling it is that these prophecies were fulfilled and that they are evidence of the truth of the claims of our Church.

  5. A beautiful post. Thank you for sharing. This also makes me think of perpetual adoration. I love that in many parishes someone is always praying and adoring our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

  6. It was lovely to read your posting on time rolling onwards. Yes, I am in the Wellington region of New Zealand and yes it is such a privilege that we receive the first light of each day for the whole world. The place in New Zealand that absolutely receives that first light is Gisborne…just in case you have a map.

    It is so wonderful to be in the Universal Church and waiting with you all for our universal Holy Father. Cardinal Pell is our nearest Cardinal for New Zealand. He is from Sydney Australia and is very well thought of by our Pope Emeritus Benedict. In New Zealand, we have Cardinal Tom Williams who is retired.

  7. Thanks for this! “The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, is Ended” has been a favorite hymn of mine for many years. Lisa associates it with perpetual adoration; it puts me in mind of the daily office. “The voice of prayer is never silent, /
    Nor dies the strain of praise away.”

  8. I found part of the “KIRCHEN-LEXIKON” on “books.google” – http://books.google.at/books?id=ICItAAAAYAAJ&hl=de&source=gbs_similarbooks : the article “Malachias” – “Sechster Band” – “Freiburg im Briesgau” – “1851” – quotes ORIGENES as saying that MALACHI is an angel. The twelve volumes – and one “Ergänzungsband” – of the “KIRCHEN-LEXIKON” that were offered many years ago by the “Antiquariat Kienreich” in Graz in Styria in Austria have, for the sixth volume also, stamped in them “Kapuziner Bibliothek Schwanberg”.

Comments are closed.