Friday, September 24, 2010

Beautiful in its time

If there's any Bible passage people are generally familiar with, it's probably either St. Paul's "ode to charity" (Love is patient, love is kind... the reading of choice of brides everywhere) or today's first reading (which my generation will at least recognize as the lyrics to a #1 hit recorded by The Byrds):

There is an appointed time for everything,
and a time for every thing under the heavens.
A time to be born, and a time to die...
... God has made everything beautiful in its time.

This would be consoling enough on its own, but the way the Liturgy of the Word is constructed today, it packs even more of a punch. The responsorial psalm refrain is "Blessed be the Lord, my Rock!" That suggests that if there is "an appointed time for everything," it is because all things exist in God. What we experience as a succession of events is the playing-out in time of God's fullness; a created approximation of the Trinitarian mystery in which there is no such thing as time or succession, but total presence. We see things following one after the other; God sees them in completeness: Ills healed, swords beaten into plowshares, death overcome.
Then we get to the Gospel. Jesus is looking ahead to his "time to die" (and his "time to rise")--what John called his "Hour." Jesus is making his way to Jerusalem and to his death, in perfectly divine peace. He is, in effect, telling the apostles that even this is "beautiful in its time."

St. Augustine wrote a magnificent meditation on this mysterious aspect of beauty:

Beautiful is God, the Word with God …
He is beautiful in heaven, beautiful on earth;
beautiful in the womb, beautiful in his parents’ arms,
beautiful in his miracles, beautiful in his sufferings;
beautiful in inviting to life, beautiful in not worrying about death,
beautiful in giving up his life and beautiful in taking it up again;
he is beautiful on the Cross,
beautiful in the tomb,
beautiful in heaven.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Let all things Praise the Lord.