A Sanctuary in Time
Dear Cathedral Family,
All around Christ Church, downtown Mobile is unusually quiet and still going into this Mardi Gras weekend. No barricades, no street vendors, no food stands, no RVs, no new beads in the trees or plastic toys and wrappers caught in the bushes. The activity around the civic center this year involves the daily lines of cars moving through the USA Health COVID-19 vaccine site in the parking lot.
While we may miss the good times of Carnival celebration, we are thankful for the good news of growing access to the vaccine and the continuing vigilance in our care for one another through social distancing and wearing masks. This is a season of short-term sacrifice for the long-term greater good. We will wait another cycle for big celebration. Now is not yet the time.
The cycles of sacred time that shape our life together as the Church continue. On this last Sunday after the Epiphany, we will experience the Transfiguration. Mardi Gras (or Shrove Tuesday) will precede the arrival of Lent on Ash Wednesday. Our bishop will join us on Ash Wednesday to invite us, along with the whole of our diocesan family, to the keeping of a holy Lent, during which we will prepare ourselves for Christ’s Passion and for the Resurrection to come on Easter Day.
Last year, as we entered the pandemic time during Lent, we wanted to hurry—to “get back to normal” soon, by Easter, by summer, by the beginning of the school year. But along the way, our sense of time was stretched and reshaped. Perhaps we have come to some new awareness of something deeper about the nature of time itself.
In his wonderful, short, but rich, book The Sabbath, Rabbi Abraham Heschel wrote, “The Sabbath itself is a sanctuary which we build, a sanctuary in time.” He continued, “It is one thing to race or be driven by the vicissitudes that menace life, and another thing to stand still and to embrace the presence of an eternal moment.” Eternity, Heschel taught, is attained not by bartering time for other things, but by learning how to fill time with spirit. The great task of holy living is learning how to allow our time to be converted into eternity, rather than simply working to fill our time.
As we prepare to enter the desert places of Lent, my hope and prayer is that we allow ourselves to embrace the presence of an eternal moment, and so allow Christ to change us more and more into His likeness.
May this Lent be for us an opportunity to build and inhabit a sanctuary in time.
May you know God’s peace,