Christianity and Time: Or “Yeah, I’m Late for the Presentation”

The Feast of the Presentation, or The Presentation of Christ at the Temple, also known as Candlemas, comes 40 days after Christmas, and celebrates the presentation of the baby Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem by Mary and Joseph according to the Law of Moses, as described in Luke 2: 22-38.

At the temple, the child Jesus is honored by Simeon and Anna, the former “righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel,” the latter a prophetess, “of great age.”  Each is able to see the Messiah before they die.  Simeon was “inspired by the Spirit” to go to the Temple to meet up with Mary and Joseph; Anna was apparently already there, as it is written “she did not depart from the temple, worshipping with fasting and prayer night and day.”

Good timing.

I mean, to be there just at the moment Mary and Joseph enter the Temple, after, presumably, an 8 mile walk from Bethlehem- that’s a wonderful piece of directed serendipity.  Especially for Simeon, “directed by the Spirit.”  What must it have been like to feel pulled toward the Temple on that particular day?

Ever since I renewed my faith in Christ, and explored it in terms of the liturgy and monasticism, the issue of time has occupied much of my thoughts.

What exactly should be the Christian concept of time?

There are many facets to this question, including the warning of Christ that “it is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority,” the idea that God is “beyond time,”- that He is past, present, and future, and Christ’s admonishment “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.”

In my studies of Christian monasticism, time is a prime feature, with the day divided into the Divine Hours: Vigils, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline.  This is meant to be a vigorous schedule with the primary goal of bringing the observant closer to God.  It is a rhythm, or pace of life contrary to our fast-paced American culture, with its emphasis on instant gratification and the self-centered now.

I know there is a contrast in emphasis in the Christian calendar vs. the secular.

But how to live in both?

How do I live with the notion of an Infinite (never ending) Love, and when it is time to take the trash out?

I want desperately to integrate myself into a more Christ-like outlook on life, and this includes how I deal with time, of which I never seem to have enough.  If I inserted myself into the feast of the Presentation, it would be a day later, after Mary and Joseph have left Jerusalem, and I would be wandering around the city with a half empty cup of cold coffee, looking at my watch, and wondering by how many hours I probably missed the Holy Child.  Dejected at having missed them, I would proceed to get drunk at some Irish bar (do they have Irish bars in Jerusalem?).

An old Carthusian monk, in an interview featured in Into Great Silence, said “The past, present, future are only human terms.  In God, there is solely the present.”

I long to live in that present.

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