Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Redeeming Time

“Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul. For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of men. Most of these unnumbered seeds perish and are lost, because men are not prepared to receive them: for such seeds as these cannot spring up anywhere except in the good soil of freedom, spontaneity and love.”[1]

It was through these words, shown me in a Methodist parsonage on the Kansas prairie nearly a decade ago by a dear friend and fellow Protestant pastor, that I was first introduced to Thomas Merton. I will ever be thankful for that introduction. The words that I read, sitting there on the floor in the middle of the manse living room, although unknown to me at that moment in time, would, not too long after, become part of a long, painful and needed transformation process in my life. It is a process that is still, and ever will be, ongoing although, at this point in time, it doesn’t appear to be quite as dramatic on the surface of life as it was initially.

Time. We only have so much time and none of us know how much of it we have before our own personal measure of it is spent. It is a truth that none can honestly deny. Time, as we know it, as it is measured to us as individuals, always runs out. The sad reality about this truth is that it is too easy to waste the time we have by spending it on things that simply do not matter, simply do not have any eternal value, or provide anything that prepares us for the eventual day when our physical clock will stop and our measure of time will cease.

It is the most precious commodity that we have and in it we discover the imperative to live carefully, walk circumspectly, redeeming what time we do have.[2] Our own personal interior environment depends upon the efforts we invest in harnessing and structuring the time that we have. These efforts will have a determining effect, both interiorly and exteriorly, in the world that is our own life and in the world that surrounds us.[3]

The use of time as a means to acknowledge God’s creative and redemptive activity does not, at least for most people in our modern age, have much appeal. This hasn’t always been the case, and is still not the cast in some instances, if not in actual practice at least in practical theory. Redeeming time through the vehicle of prayer is a legacy given to us by the Church, something handed down to us by our spiritual ancestors from the past.

*One day … Seven Canonical Hours of Prayer.
*Days of the week … Fruitful prayers, particularly those of the Rosary, to pray with their appointed mysteries to contemplate.
*Months of the year … Prayers themed to focus on major mysteries of Church teaching.
*Liturgical Seasons … The fertile seed bed that supports a holistic approach spiritual life.

We are not left without witnesses and examples that direct and lead us so that in each moment of each day we are prepared to receive some seed, some germ of spiritual vitality, falling upon the soil of the soul. Will we ever pray as faithfully and fruitfully as possible? No. Will we ever become masters of time? Probably not. We will always be subservient to it in some degree since we are creatures in time. We can, however, endeavor to live more mindfully, more consciously of the time that we are measured and use time, even minute moments of it, in a way that allows freedom, spontaneity, and love opportunity and a place to grow and flourish.

[1] Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, p. 14
[2] Ephesians 5:15
[3] Colossians 4:5