We travel through time from past into present and to the future. We mark moments in our lifetime with special occasions, at birth, coming of age, marriage, death. All this suggests that time flows in one direction. But our experience is sometimes quite different. The pattern of days in the week, of months in the year, of seasons, and of religious celebrations suggest a more circular motion. And our memory and emotions can take us anywhere and anytime.
I think the experience of lockdown has also had an effect on our perception of time. Perhaps you found that at times it has been hard to know what day of the week it was. Did each day seem just like the one before? Did you feel that time seemed to drag? So that what was familiar and routine became to feel a like being imprisoned? Perhaps the future became for you more uncertain. Many have said that they missed the past contact with friends and wider family, the hugs that were so normal.
The connections between religion and time are varied. At the moment Muslims are marking Ramadan, a month long fast based on the lunar calendar. Christians are in the season of resurrection (from Easter to Pentecost – Whit Sunday). The Jewish calendar at the moment marks the time between Passover and the Feast of Weeks. These occasions come round each year, but there is also a longer time scale. A Christian traditional view of time is :- a beginning in creation, a fall into alienation from God, the coming of Christ in Jesus of Nazareth and an eventual renewing of creation, a reunion with God.
These regular, repeating, cyclical expressions of faith are meant to help us navigate our life through all its challenges and changes. They accompany daily and weekly acts of prayer and devotion. They can be reminders and prompts to act in love and kindness to our neighbours. They can be assurances that we are loved and that there is forgiveness and new possibilities. Just like other routines of home, work and leisure they offer a framework for decision making and provide a structure of meaning.
Sometimes, however, the totally unexpected comes and throws our patterns and predictability into chaos. Is it then that we think about what is timeless and eternal? What really and deeply matters in life? What will last beyond the days and months and years of our lifetime? This sudden upheaval can make us reassess our priorities, look again at our values, and perhaps change the direction we take.
Each moment holds the potential for love. Each day we can be kind. Every week provides opportunities for giving and receiving care for one another. As we travel through time we can bring the eternal into the present.
A version of this blog was published in the Leighton Buzzard Observer on 27.4.21.
[These blogs are the views of individual Friends and do not necessarily represent the views of other Quaker or Britain Yearly Meeting. For agreed statements please visit the Quakeers in. Ritalin website. Www.quakers.org.uk ]