Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A Hole in Time

A wonderful sentence by one of our regular posters, the seminarian Shaughn, made me search my files for a poem I wrote four years ago on a similar theme. Shaughn said:

"Instead, you get the reality of time colliding ever so briefly with eternity. Glorious".

A Hole in Time: Introduction

Wednesday, May 11, 2005, the feast of St. Monica, at Mass. We have just said the angels' song, 'Holy, Holy, Holy' . There is a hush. Father pauses, lifts his hands and his eyes toward heaven, and begins the great Prayer of Consecration, "All glory be to thee . . .". Suddenly I have a sense of the timelessness of what we are doing. I seem to hear not only the words of our Prayer Book, but also ‘Te igitur clementissime Pater…’ and ‘…Holy and all-holy…’ and the many other ways that prayer begins in other places. I seem to see not only our own little New Hampshire church, but also an ancient Saxon chapel, an Irish Culdee praying, a pompous solemn cathedral Mass, a . . .

Time is irrelevant. There is (in the eternal scheme of things) only one Mass, and we are there . . .

A Hole in Time

. . . and hands raise up,
and eyes lift up,
and a voice speaks up,
and a voice speaks up,
and a voice . . .

. . . and a voice, and a voice, and a voice . . .

. . . and in a wattled shrine of Saxon days,
and on a lonely Celtic isle,
and in cathedrals great and granite,
newly built in days gone by,
and in the ancient, aging piles of stone,
that still remain today,
and in a hidden persecuted room,
where faith, attacked, costs dear
and at the altar of His rising up,
where glorious pomp prevails,
and as the trumpet sounds for His return,
while the last of Masses here below is said,

. . . the countless hands lift up,
unnumbered eyes are raised,
and multitudes of voices speak,
a sound like rushing mighty waters flowing,
flowing through the streams of time,
rushing o'er the many rapids
of the clamoring strifes of men,
and in a world with sin's pollution
deeply filled,
the river runs, the voices speak,
and yet are speaking . . .
. . . voices numberless beyond all counting
(yet the voices are but one),
and hands that lift up,
holding sacred things,
though many, are likewise here but one,
and eyes that now towards heaven are turned,
are one with those that now look down,
for many priests there are, but only one,
and many Masses offered, yet but one,
for at the altar time and space are vanquished,
and here He offers once the one oblation,
and many priests and many altars
there may be,
but here . . .

. . . His hands raise up,
His eyes lift up
His voice speaks up,
and He is here,
and we are there,
and . . .

----------ed pacht


Canon Tallis said...

Thank you, Ed. That will go into my set of private prayers and devotions.

My first really big Anglican service while I was yet a teenager became such an occasion; as the service began the back wall of the church dissolved into eternity beyond time and space and until someone shook me and told me it was over that was all I knew of what had happened.

It took me a great deal of time, but I have sought out those great cathedrals and also those places where the wattle chapels and ancient Saxon churches stood. I have felt and experienced the holiness of such places. But through it all I am reminded of something which the Reverend Dr. Eric Lionel Mascall wrote that the unity of the Church is best shown not by all being at one celebration of the Eucharist but by many small congregations all doing the same thing at the same time. But it really, as I think you indicated, is one thing through both time and eternity, a mystery so full of His glory and so far beyond the comprehension of even the greatest theologians that the best that we can do is stand before God with our hearts in our hands seeking to adore as best we can until He calls us unto Himself.

Again, very great thanks.

poetreader said...

Thank YOU, Father.
It is rather good to know that my rather peculiar sense of time/place is sometimes shared by others. I tend to alternate between being thankful for the depth of experience that sometimes comes and wondering if I am really quite sane. One of my most-used expressions is, "The veil is thin," and that certainly seems to be the case all through life, and especially at the Eucharist. Time and place don't really matter much in the face of an infinite God, and of the eternal reality of a sacrifice both once and eternally offered. The veil surely IS thin, and one day we shall pass through it.


Fr. Steve said...


When I read that, It brought to my mind the idea of the eternal mass. If someone is saying Mass every day at, say 10am, in every time zone, then the canon of the mass winds up being said almost constantly over the course of a day.

I love the imagery of the mass going on in a wattle church, and the Irish Culdee in prayer. This is a most powerful poem that bypasses all the defenses and goes straight to the heart. Thank you.

RSC+ said...


You touched very well on the feeling I was attempting to articulate. The idea of it isn't mine--how could it be? But it seems to me that there is, in a certain sense, one Mass, and we're all, across time and space, called to join in on it and receive the endless grace it provides.

(Which, incidentally, makes the idea of a private mass something of a contradiction, but I digress.)

Well written and moving! :)


Sandra McColl said...

'The voice of prayer is never silent
Nor dies the strain of praise away.'

And so on and so forth until the last line:

'And all the world will be C of E.'

My own mental image (or one of them) shows the temporal unfolding of the history of our world as a spiral staircase without a central pillar. When the whole edifice was about to collapse, God intervened, and the events from the Annunciation to the Ascension, but especially and most centrally our Lord's Death and Resurrection, were an intrusion of temporality on to eternity that had the effect of thrusting a pillar through the middle of the staircase (or, perhaps better, ramp) all the way down to the beginning and infinitely upwards. And the Mass is the way in which the staircase or ramp of temporality connects with, and supports itself on, the pillar of eternity. Tweaks to iron out any unorthodoxies would of course be welcome.