Gregory of Nyssa on Time

Time is measured by a threefold division, past, present, and future. In all three we receive the munificence of the Lord. If you consider the present, it is through Him that you live; if the future, your hope that your expectations might be fulfilled in founded on Him; if the past, you realize that you did not even exist before He made you. Your very birth you have received as a benefit from Him; and once born, another benefit was conferred on you in that, as the Apostle says, you should live and move in Him. The hopes of the future depend upon the same Divine action. You, however, are master only of the present. Therefore, even if you never cease to give thanks to God throughout your life, you will hardly thank Him for the present; and as for the future and the past, you will not be able to find a means of rendering Him His due.

Yet, though we are so far from being able to thank Him properly, we do not even show our good intention as far as we can—I will not say all day long, but not even by devoting a tiny part of the day to the service of God. Who has spread the earth under my feet? Whose wisdom has made water passable? Who has set up the vault of the sky? Who carries the sun before me like a torch? Who causes the springs to come forth from ravines? Who has given the rivers their beds? Who has subjected the animals to my service? Who, when I was but lifeless ashes, gave me both life and a mind? Who fashioned this clay in the image of the Divine? And, when this Divine Image had been tarnished by sin, did not He restore it to its former beauty? When I was exiled from Paradise, deprived of the tree of life, and submerged in the gulf of material things, was it not He who brought me back to man’s first beatitude?There is none that understandeth, says the Scripture. Truly, if we considered these things, we should give thanks all our life without ceasing.

From “The Lord’s Prayer” by Gregory of Nyssa



Advent Reflection ~by Mary Earle at

(link to read the whole reflection – it is great!)

Grant me O God the capacity to wait in hope, to allow your own loving-kindness to grow in me, for the life of your world. Amen.

Pace of Change

Good stuff on Time and our culture to ponder!

The Ten Year Century (from WSJ on-line Aug 10, 2009)

Sabbath Keeping 7

Jesus invites you to rest:

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Matt 11:28

How will you respond?

Sabbath Keeping 6

Days Pass, Years Vanish, and we walk sightless among miracles. (Jewish Sabbath Prayer)

Sabbath is a time of glorious reorientation! The Divine order and rhythm of our lives is reestablished. The scales on our eyes of faith fall off and our vision is restored. We are enabled to embrace infinity and all of the wonder and mystery it entails. The smallness of our world is replaced through our glimpsing of Infinity in all of its glory.

We no longer walk sightless among miracles!

Sabbath Keeping 5

Abide in me as I abide in you (John 15:4a)

We are now getting to the crux of the situation. Sabbath is about learning to abide with God and the first part of the verse from John enjoins us to ‘abide in Christ’. But the good news for us is spelled out in the second part of the sentence – ‘as I abide in you’. What a wonderful reminder for us. You see God is ever present abiding in us, even when we are unaware of it!

Marcus Borg expresses it this way: “God is in relationship with us:

spirituality is about becoming aware of a relationship that already exists.”

And Carl Jung: “Bidden or not God is present.”

So if God is ever present, how do we often times end up feeling disconnected and far removed from the Divine presence?

Let’s think about Jacob. He has just conspired with his mother to trick his father Isaac into bestowing the blessing that rightly should be given to the first born son, Esau, to him instead. The ruse is discovered in short order creating quite a bit of family turmoil – to say the least! It is quickly decided that this would be a good time to ship Jacob off to his uncle’s place in Haran for a while – until things settle down a bit on the home front. Jacob sets off on his journey and stops to rest for the night at a certain place.

In the midst of all of this self-created turmoil necessitating his quick trip out of town, how aware do you think Jacob is of God’s presence? In fact, consciously or unconsciously Jacob may even be hoping that God isn’t present and aware of the goings on?

Well, a funny thing happens when Jacob stops and rests for the night, he has a wonderful dream of angels ascending and descending a ladder to heaven. He awakes from his dream and exclaims, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it!”

Well, duh! As revealing as Jacob’s epiphany is, God has been abiding with Jacob all along. It was Jacob’s awareness of this abiding presence that was blunted. I think it would be fair to say that Jacob was operating from a distracted state of being. It is easy to see how all of the family turmoil could blunt Jacob’s awareness of God’s presence. God hadn’t moved, but Jacob certainly had!

You see God abides every where, every when – the problem is that our awareness of God’s presence in the wheres and the whens of our lives, becomes blunted by the stuff of life itself. We face family concerns and issues. We face other multifaceted demands on our time and attention. We find our lives out of sync with the rhythms of the natural world. We are judged by what we do or who we know rather than by the simple fact that ‘we are’.

And somehow, unsurprisingly, in the midst of all of this, like Jacob, our awareness of God’s abiding presence and abiding love for us becomes blunted. We lose our connection to the source of our being, and no longer abide in the Divine presence. We begin to float along on the surface of our lives. We shift fully into our autopilot doing mode, even in our faith journey.

The Sabbath is a slice of time set aside for abiding in God’s presence. Through this practice of abiding we find that our awareness of God abiding presence and abiding love in our lives is heightened. Those obstacles that stand in the way of our experience of the Divine presence slowly fall away and the Divine order and rhythm of our lives is re-established.

And like Jacob we suddenly realize, “Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it!

Sabbath Keeping 4

We are finite beings – God destines us for eternity (infinity). It is fully in our nature to hunker down in our finitude. This is our natural inclination. It takes work (and practice) to open our selves to infinity – it runs counter to our finitude.

Abraham Joshua Heschal reminds us that Sabbath is like a window [through which] we perceive the presence of the eternity that is planted within us. Sabbath reconnects us with eternity which unblunts our awareness of infinity and God. Sabbath is when our lives intersect the Divine. We glimpse the eternity that we are predestined for.

Since we are finite this is an ongoing process and requires a continually coming -regular Sabbath practice – in order to maintain the depth and connection.

Some thoughts from C.S. Lewis in his The Screwtape Letters:

The humans live in time, but [God] destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself and to the point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which [God] has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them. He would therefore have them continually concerned either with eternity (which means being concerned with Him) or with the Present – either meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.

The man can neither make, nor retain, one moment of time; it all comes to him by pure gift; he might as well regard the sun and moon as his chattels.

We have trained them to think of the future as a promised land which favored heroes attain – not as something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.

Sabbath Keeping 3, a Reflection by Mary C. Earle

But he would withdraw to deserted places and pray..  ~Luke 5:16

The Trappist monk and author Thomas Merton once wrote, “There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence and that is activism and overwork.” The vast majority of us are formed to rush incessantly, without pausing between one activity and the next. We seldom give ourselves time to reflect on the lives that we live. And we seldom allow ourselves to be still.

Going against this dominant pattern is not easy. And yet Jesus himself withdraws from the crowds and the press of needs. Luke tells us that Jesus would go off by himself and pray. He had a rhythm of work and rest, involvement and disengagement.

Jesus, raised as a Jew, would have lived each week in the expectation of Sabbath rest. He would have come to Friday night knowing that for 24 hours all work would be put aside. He would have been brought up welcoming the Sabbath as the sun set, and wishing ‘Shabbat shalom’ (Sabbath peace) to those gathered for Friday night observance.

If we are to practice resurrection, if we are to be an Easter people, it behooves us to remember that we are created for Sabbath. We are created for time without noise, without work, without incessant demand. We are created to embody humane rhythms of work and rest, activity and restoring sleep.

In those spaces of quiet and rest, the God who gifts us with an empty tomb will have a moment to get our attention, to replenish our weary bodies and souls, to quicken our imaginations, to tend our wounds. Then, and only then, will we be ready to be sent out, to do the work we have been given to do.

    Gracious Christ, may I hear your invitation to withdraw, rest and pray. May I not fall into the habit of overwork. May I remember that in resting, I come to know your restoring grace. Amen.

Mary C. Earle, Posted on Explore Faith, Signposts 4/27/07