As we round the icy corners of January, the liturgical calendar is quickly slipping into Lent. Lent? I’m sorry? Did we somehow magically slip from Lent of 2020 to Lent of 2021? Did Easter even happen? What day is this?
I’ve got to admit, I’ve been pretty confused about time. The other day, I called to cancel a dentist appointment (I’m too freaked out to sit in my very nice dentist’s chair with my state ranking near the top of the list for BAD news about Covid). I said to the kind dental assistant on the phone, “I think I just went in the late Fall, right? I’m probably okay to wait a few more months.” She likely smiled to herself as she informed me, “No, actually, you were here last July.”
July? Late Fall? Lent? These last months have all smeared together into the same, crazed blur. It’s hard to keep time, when I and the rest of the world are slogging through this terrible time-warp of global pandemic.
So why are we struggling with time?
Time is measured and experienced not just by one’s own individual will and heart, but by one’s community. This is why liturgical time is so valuable in the life of the Church. Our score of seasons and saints, holy days and memorials, helps orient us to something greater. Even more, time isn’t just for us, living here, keeping track of clocks and calendars. Regular ritualized memorials allow us to reattach, remember, re-enter into relationships of love—whether we can hold those loved ones in our arms or not. This is why regular celebration with our communities—be they families, friends, or our fellow members of the faithful—are so valuable. And why we feel so lost without them.
What can we take away in this year when all eyes eagerly await an end to global suffering from Covid-19? We can dream about the past and we can hope for the future. But this bleak mid-winter sameness asks us to be more highly aware of the now.
I’m keeping my eye trained on my liturgical calendar (you know, the one you get in the mail for free and hang up on your refrigerator) so I can remember how to orient myself to something other than breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’m looking at the days of the saints and remembering Elizabeth Ann Seton, John Neumann, and André Bessette (they all are celebrated this week, can you believe it???) My spiritual reading has an actual day attached to it (I’m reading St. Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries—helpfully divided into small segments across the year).
And, perhaps most importantly, I’m trying to focus on my two tiny children. Every moment that I waste being distracted by the past or worried about the future causes me to miss the joyous amazement of the now—which might involve eating blue play-doh, so continual vigilance is absolutely required!
So, as we approach another tomorrow, which may be a bit like today, or yesterday, let us glory in the moment to which God calls us to be present—with eyes and hands open, watching and working for a healthier and safer world.