Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Well Said: Holiness in Time ... and some thoughts on prayer (Updated)

From my quote journal.
One of the most distinguished words in the Bible is the word qadosh, holy; a word which more than any other is representative of the mystery and majesty of the divine. Now what was the first holy object in the history of the world? Was it a mountain? Was it an altar?

It is, indeed, a unique occasion at which the distinguished word qadosh is used for the first time: in the book of Genesis at the end of the story of creation. How extremely significant is the fact that it is applied to time: "And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy." There is no reference in the record of creation to any object in space that would be endowed with the quality of holiness.

This is a radical departure from accustomed religious thinking. The mythical mind would expect that, after heaven and earth have been established, God would create a holy place -- a holy mountain or a holy spring -- whereupon a sanctuary is to be established. Yet it seems as if to the Bible it is holiness in time, the Sabbath, which comes first.

When history began, there was only one holiness in the world, holiness in time When at Sinai the word of God was about to be voices, a call for holiness in man was proclaimed: "Thou shalt be unto me a holy people." It was only after the people had succumbed to the temptation of worshipping a thing, a golden calf, that the erection of a Tabernacle of holiness in space, was commanded. The sanctity of time came first, the sanctity of man came second, and the sanctity of space last. Time was hallowed by God; space, the Tabernacle, was consecrated by Moses.
Abraham Heschel, The Sabbath
Coming across this quote now just emphasizes a realization I had after reading Msgr. Charles Pope's homily about prayer is that prayer is rest.
Jesus invites them to come away by themselves to a quiet place and rest a while. Most people seldom think of their personal prayer as a privileged invitation by the Lord, nor do they think of it as rest.
I had long abandoned the idea of spending a minimum of 20 minutes to let God speak to me. Not to speak myself, but to listen. Thinking of it as rest, made me long for that time.

I also put it together with what a couple says when they are doing an announcement after Mass, inviting couples to sign up for the Beyond Cana retreat. They point out that one of the greatest sacrifices we can make today is to give up time for someone.

I suddenly saw my measly twenty minutes in that light. Today, O Lord, I offer upon your altar my twenty minutes. Small though it may be, it is my widow's mite. It is precious to me above so many other things.

I began again yesterday with that personal prayer time and it was a difficult sacrifice to make. I actually welcomed the idea of the sacrifice because that made it worth doing. I could weigh it against the other activities I was "neglecting" and find that giving praise to my Maker while listening for His voice was tipping the scales.

Sitting in the back yard yesterday, timer facedown upon my chair's arm, I fought the temptation to do more than look at the clouds, the bees, the birds, while contemplating "I Am" without putting my own wish list out there. Remembering that it was about resting and refreshment in God brought a continual reorientation of my mind. This was a good endeavor. It was ok to just drift. Baby steps.

It brought rest and it brought peace. I look forward to today's sacrifice.

Will Duquette at The View From the Foothills takes these thoughts and turns to something we all have trouble with ... detachment from what we want to do next so that we may spend time with God in the here and now. Excellent reminder and a good read.


  1. I am--as I often am with you--in awe. "Finding" 20 minutes seems as insurmountable as any of the Labors of Hercules, but there you go and do it! And, of course, there you go--again--inspiring me to try, too.
    Heather @CraftLit.com (can't seem to get the system to recognize me)

  2. This was lovely. So much about "listening for the voice" resonates with me, and so much in the Torah and the prophets is about hearing the voice and being willing to respond, saying "here I am." I love the fact that the voice oftend comes not in thunder, but in whispers:

    "And a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice."

  3. Heather ... it's only been two days in practice, so don't be in awe yet. :-D Time will tell ... but the effort is worth the making so we shall see ... :-)

    Agathon... that's one of my favorite bits of scripture. How could it not be? God is so personal that he gives us a gentle whisper of direction.