“In contemplation God teaches the soul very quietly and secretly, without its knowing how, without the sound of words” (Chapter 39, The Spiritual Canticle).
In the spirit of St. John of the Cross, this blog reflects on the contemplative experience and the poetic experience, sometimes separately and distinctly, sometimes in common, as mutually enlightening.
I will also post to this blog, from time to time, my own poetry, with a short interpretive note attached.
~ Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD
Tue, Jun 18 2019
|Image by GK von Skoddeheimen from Pixabay|
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance…
A time to seek, 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 be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war, and a time of peace.
Eccl. 3:4, 6-8
Time is not just a ticking off of uniform moments, one after another, each no different than the other. Rather, time’s passage brings forth out of its varied moments the moment that has just now come to be—in which opportunities have grown ripe, or insights have crystallized, where calls to action have rallied forth and grabbed hold of our determination, or the surfacing of realistic hopes, or freakish, unimagined turns-of-events, or suddenly materialized positive circumstances—all of which seem exquisitely timed—have imposed themselves on our receptive hearts as nothing less than the workings of divine grace. It is the moment, therefore, where choices emerge that must be made right now, for to delay another moment would be a failure of will to correspond with grace.
Time, in this sense, passes more like the notes of a melody than numbers on a timeline. We must listen hard to hear the melody and stay in tune; but when we come to the last note, we have not the End—we have the Song
For there is “a time to weep, and a time to laughter.” You would think that most of us would have little trouble recognizing such moments when they come. To weep when we feel like weeping, to laugh when we are glad. But we know it’s not so easy as that. We know how hard it is for us to learn how to weep, in a way that is natural and fitting, real and honest; and, by the same token, to learn how to laugh and rejoice when the heart is full and glad. Moreover, there are moments ripe for weeping or for laughing even harder to recognize—namely, moments in which we are called to set our own selves aside and share in another’s joy or sorrow. But how often we are out of joint with such moments when they present themselves to us.
And there is “a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast a way.” Are there ever moments in life when it’s no longer proper or fitting to go on seeking, to persist in seeking—for aren’t we all always called to seek; aren’t we all always called to be seekers along life’s pilgrim way? Of course, when precisely the one thing being asked of us is to stop, step aside, and acknowledge the fact that we have received, speaking in our hearts of what we have been given with words of gratitude and joy.
Thus, we repeatedly acknowledge that our lives themselves and the gifts that fill them as from God’s hand—and we simply accept that fact for what it is. They are precious gifts because they hold within them God the Giver, and God asks us to stop and cherish, to keep his gifts from time to time, so that we might thus cherish the Giver.
Of course, later will come the moment to cast God’s gifts away, so to speak, to cast them behind us. Or there will come the moment in which these gifts will be taken away from us, the moment of loss. But when that time comes, it will be because God is only continuing to ask us to cherish the Giver in his gifts—only now by casting off his old gifts so as to seek new gifts from the Giver.
“A time to love, and a time to hate.” I’m not sure what “a time to hate” might look like. How do we recognize it when it arrives? Maybe it looks like this—
We can know that a time to hate has arrived and grown ripe in our hearts when we also know—in our heart of hearts—that now, more than ever, at this very moment, it is the time to begin really, truly to love, the time when it is especially difficult to choose love over hate.
“A time to be silent, and a time to speak.” Since God has made everything appropriate to its time, we are called by this timeliness, when it is necessary, to speak—in prayer or meditation or spiritual direction or prayer-journaling or personal reflection; for then we can better attend to, by our efforts to name them, those moments of light and grace, of blessing or crisis, which the Spirit has breathed into our lives.
Yet, since God has put the timeless into our hearts, there are also those moments in prayer, meditation, perhaps even in spiritual direction, journaling, reflection, when it is best to keep silence. Or maybe it’s better put this way—there are moments when it is best to fall silent.
We strive to speak in prayer, for example, if only to speak the one word “Lord.” And then, failing that, we fall silent. And our silence itself names the moment. It’s not the silence of one who has nothing to say; it’s the silence of one who knows that now is the time to keep silence.
Written by Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD