Technology has to some degree enabled humanity to subdue and manage the natural world, the world of space. This conquest has often come at the expense of time. We expend time in our effort to gain space and the things of space.
Our preoccupation with space and things tends to blind us to any reality that is not identified as a thing, as something tangible. In this regard time becomes a commodity spent to gain or control things. How often have we heard that time is money? As with money we often speak of not having enough time and needing more. If we had more time, then we could acquire or control more stuff; we could get more done. Having more is not, however, synonymous with being more.
A core teaching and practice of the desert is detachment. This is not, however, a negation of the world. Detachment is about more than things. It is an interior attitude, a way of being that reminds us we are creatures who inhabit both space and time. As we let go of things, we begin to discover that time is more than a commodity, not simply a tool for accomplishing, acquiring, and controlling. Detachment teaches us that time itself is sacred. Detachment frees us to face sacred moments, to live, in the words of Jean Pierre de Caussade, in “the sacrament of the present moment.”
Holiness of time is the meaning of sabbath. “God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.” (Genesis 2:3). “Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy…. The Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.” (Exodus 20:8, 11). The creation story suggests that holiness in time comes first. The day – time – is declared holy before any place or thing.
Holiness of time is a foundation of our liturgical cycle whether it be the annual cycle of feasts and fasts, the weekly cycle of the Sunday liturgy, or the daily cycle of the offices. The liturgical cycles call us and teach us to live in sacred time.
The liturgical feasts are not just commemorations. Rather, they are opportunities for communion with Christ. The fixed-date feasts such as the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Epiphany, and the Transfiguration are specific redemptive interventions of God into history. Eternity enters into time.
The movable feasts such as Easter, the Ascension, and Pentecost are not fixed in the calendar. They stand apart from time. They guide humanity above and beyond time. In these feasts the created, including time, enters into eternity.
The symmetry of these two liturgical cycles comes together in the person of Jesus Christ – the uniting of divine and human, uncreated and created, eternal and temporal. Time is sanctified in the events of his life.
The recognition that we inhabit not just time, but sacred time invites us to focus on being rather than doing; relationships rather than things; letting go rather than grasping. Sacred time lies at the heart of authentic prayer – to simply be present to the One who is already and always present.
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