While Earth Rolls Onward into Light – A Beautiful Meditation on Time from an Old Hymn

ClocksMy blog is usually posted in the evening at about 21:00 (9:00 PM) U.S. Eastern Time. But in Sydney, Australia, it is 1:00 in the afternoon of the following day. As I prepare for bed, they are eating lunch on a day that has not even begun for me. And proceeding farther west from there, in the Philippines and Japan the afternoon is winding down and the workday is coming to an end!

Time. What could be simpler than for me to look at the clock and say that it is 9:00 PM on Wednesday, February 17th? But on the other hand, what could be more mysterious? Time is a human reckoning of a mysterious passage.

And yet the mystery is also beautiful. At any given time, some people are asleep in the night, while others 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.

Here are two other beautiful verses from the same hymn:

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! The hymn contains a beautiful and poetic description of the Church: always praising, always sighing, always at worship. Although some are asleep, 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). The praises never end, for the sun is always rising somewhere even as it is setting somewhere else.

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 given time, Mass is surely being offered somewhere on this earth. The Liturgy of the Hours, too, always uttering forth from the lips of the faithful somewhere. 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 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 fulfilled by the worldwide Church. His advice is so simple and yet so profound. St. Paul says, Pray always (1 Thess 5:17).

Here is a rendition of the entirety of the hymn (The Day Thou Gavest, Lord, is Ended) that was quoted above. The complete lyrics are available here: The Day Thou Gavest.


3 Replies to “While Earth Rolls Onward into Light – A Beautiful Meditation on Time from an Old Hymn”

  1. Great article; very thought provoking and amazing! Made me think of each 15° timezone from to North to South Poles, and the number of Masses beginning at the same time, or overlapping, and all the faithful simultaneously giving honor and glory to God. Also brought back memories of serving aboard ships at sea, aircraft carriers specifically, in which one of the three assigned chaplains is always a Catholic priest. Whether it was just the priest and me at daily Mass in the small chapel, or at Sunday Mass on the Focsle beneath the flight deck during flight ops, it was often in remote areas, thousands of miles from land. Here too, the worship of God goes on… and under the sea too. When operations and weather permitted, the priest would fly on the “Holy Helo,” often lowered on a wire bringing the sacraments to other ships in the Battle Group. Now I wonder when we will see the first Mass celebrated in space or on the Moon!

  2. Big on Time, Short on Space

    It would have been nice to bring more about space into your reflection, as it’s so intimately connected with time. Time, the measure of movement, according to Aristotle, only exists then where there is place. And the complementarity of places and times on earth, leads to the ubiquity of worship. That’s the short version, but I’m sure it could be fleshed out with (Monseigneural) reflection.

  3. This post makes it clear that we can walk in God’s Kingdom 24/7. To pause and contemplate on the continual call throughout the day to enter into the Mystical Body of Christ, being one with those in heaven and on earth, blows my mind. What a wonderful knowledge, to know that our soul can touch heaven 24/7. God is so very Good to us little people.

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