During this period, where we are unable to meet together in church, Fr Ray Hemingray has shared his thought for today, Sunday 7th June 2020.
Today is Trinity Sunday, and so we are at the beginning of that time of the year in the Church’s calendar called Trinity, which lasts for about 6 months. This period is also called ‘Ordinary Time’, because it is outside the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent and Easter. The times and seasons of the liturgical year come and go like the times and seasons of the solar year – spring, summer, autumn and winter. And just as, by looking at the garden and the elevation of the sun, we can work out which of the four seasons of the year we are in (it is, of course, easier to look at a calendar!), so we can tell what season of the Church’s liturgical year we are in, by looking at the colours of the robes and furnishings used in church and by the choice of music – assuming, that is, that we can be allowed into church! In Advent and Lent we use purple; in Christmas, Epiphany and Easter, white or gold; and in Ordinary time the colour is green. Red is used mostly for one or two special days and some saints’ days. Anyway, I am prompted by all this to take ‘Time’ as my theme for today.
The most well-know reference to time in the Bible is to be found in the Book of Ecclesiastes. Those of you of a certain age like me will remember in the 1960s Pete Seeger’s recording of ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’ (it was also recorded by The Byrds), the words of which were based on this passage from Ecclesiastes 3 (in the King James Version of the Bible):
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
The passage reminds us that the times are constantly changing. Good times will alternate with bad times. We have to accept the good with the bad. There will be times we enjoy and times we won’t. There will be times when we have no choice as to what happens, and there will be times when we need to make the right choices.
This is especially relevant in the difficult period we find ourselves in at present time due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Sadly, for many people, this has been ‘a time to die’, and for others ‘a time to mourn’. Fortunately, for many, there has been ‘a time to heal’. And unfortunately we have had to accept that this is ‘a time to refrain from embracing’ many of those whom we love. But this period has become more of ‘a time to love’, in the sense that we have seen many acts of love by people helping neighbours, particularly the aged and vulnerable, whom they may not have engaged with previously. Many people have found ‘a time to sew’, or do jigsaws, or engage in other pastimes that they have previously not had time for.
Time can mean a limited period, for example, a fixed interval for a person between their ‘time to be born’ and their ‘time to die’, or a time that might be very short or very long – ‘a time of war’ or ‘a time of peace’. Time can be an opportunity, for example, ‘a time to speak’.
There are a couple of things I can think of about time that the passage from Ecclesiastes does not mention. The first is ‘a time to waste time’! I occasionally speak to someone on the telephone who says that he or she is bored (though I have to admit it is usually men!). I bite my lip and don’t comment, but usually think to myself, ‘Bored with life?! There must be something they can do.’ We have a limited amount of time. We should make the most of it, even when there are restrictions on what we can do. The advice offered by the second century Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius was: ‘Give yourself time to learn something new’. He also said, ‘You will find rest from vain fancies if you do every act in life as if it were your last.’ Lost time can never be re-found. How often have we each missed an opportunity in life because we wasted time or were too bored to be bothered?
The second thing missing is ‘a time to pray’. In our present situation, perhaps we should be finding more time to pray for those suffering illness or hardship – or make contact with them – especially if we can’t find anything else to do!
Some people have too much time on their hands and others have too little. Someone once said that time is like a snowflake – it can melt while we are trying to think about what to do with it. And a Frenchman, Henri Boulard, once wrote: ‘Never say that you have no time. On the whole it is those who are busiest who can make time for yet more, and those who have more leisure time who refuse to do something when asked. What we lack is not time, but heart.’
People’s perceptions of time can vary greatly. For some people, time can be too slow. For others the perception is that it can be too quick. I will leave the last word on the subject with the famous physicist Albert Einstein: ‘When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute – and it’s longer than an hour. That’s relativity.’
And I’m afraid that’s all I have ‘time’ for!
Until my next Thought for the Day, may God bless you and keep you safe.