A Hymn and The Mystery of Time

"World Time Zones Map"  by TimeZonesBoy - Own work.  Licensed under  CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
“World Time Zones Map” by TimeZonesBoy – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

It is late in the evening on the east coast of the United States: the 23rd hour of the day we call February 25th. But where my Uncle, Fr. George Pope, lives (he is a priest in Bangladesh), not only is it already February 26th, but it has been so for some time. It is 9:00 in the morning there and people are likely arriving at work—on a day that has yet to begin for me. Further to the east, in Sydney, Australia, it is 1:00 in the afternoon of February 26th, and people are returning from lunch—before I have even gone to bed! In Wellington, New Zealand, the work day is almost over; it is 3:00 PM and many are looking to wrap things up in a 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 11:00 PM on June 15th”? And yet what could be more mysterious than a simple thing like 11:00 PM, June 15th? For time interacts with space and folds back on itself. Time 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 midday. 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.

And other verses 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

They are 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 else 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 this earth. The Liturgy of the Hours too, always coming forth from the lips of the faithful somewhere on this spinning orb. Yes, in the mystery of time, this planet of ours is a place of perpetual 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 hosts 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 its ever-moving sweep. What St Paul says to us as individuals is also fulfilled by the worldwide Church. The advice is so simple and yet so 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 of the hymn is here: The Day Thou Gavest.

6 Replies to “A Hymn and The Mystery of Time”

  1. Msgr. Charles, to wake each morning and read your reflections – helps me each day. Thank you.

  2. Gorgeous, beautiful thoughts! I love the fact that the Church is unceasingly gathered together, offering thanks and praise to God. It is also marvelous to consider that she has been gathered in prayer and worship – without break – for 2000 years! It’s as if 2000 years is a single moment (a freeze-frame), with the faithful on their knees before God!

    As always, many thanks! Have a blessed day, Monsignor!

  3. “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.”

    I would add that at any given time, there are probably literally thousands of people praying the Rosary.

    However, it is worth remembering that Satan is also extremely busy at all times and in all places. One indication of this is the intentional homicide rate. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimated that there were 466,078 intentional homicides on this earth in 2012 alone:


    That works out to just over 21 intentional homicides every hour of every day of the year. Can you imagine that? Nearly two dozen people every single hour are moved by Satan to kill another person.

    Frankly, the Church should organize a worldwide Novena to St. Michael to fight for an end to violence.

  4. Such a beautiful reflection. When i wake too late by an hour to pray the Angelus, i still pray it, reminding myself, that somewhere in this world someone is praying it with me. What a beautiful thought. God bless you!

  5. On the prayers to St.Michael, I agree.
    God is mocked so much that His punishment must be close, for the good of all.
    never thought I would live to see society change
    So much.and so many turned their back on the Lord.
    the angels prayer as at Fatima is so needed. The good will suffer with the bad.

  6. Also, on time,it is reported,
    Einstein was visited by a priest that wanted more info on Big Bang, but Ein. wanted to know about the Eucharist.
    After, Ein. said that Christ must therefore Infinite and Timeless

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