From the Perspective of Eternity

Whenever the news is dire, as often seems the case at present, there is a great temptation to bury one’s head in the sand, muttering ‘This too will pass.’ Or we can remind ourselves that we remember very little of what happened on this day five years ago, unless it marked some great personal happiness or sorrow. The ability to forget can be a great mercy, but it is frequently a selective mercy. We forget; but do others? Burying our heads in the sand may be tempting, but can everyone do that?

Lent will soon be here and I shall be writing a few posts about how to prepare for it and, hopefully, allow it to transform us. An important element in that will be trying to hold in creative tension the everyday and the eternal. St Benedict urges us to ‘do now what may profit us for eternity’. In other words, we have to cultivate the ability to see that our ordinary, everyday actions have implications for hereafter. From the perspective of eternity, nothing is unimportant or irrelevant. Everything is charged with meaning. Put like that, we can see the necessity of prayer, scripture and the regular reception of the sacraments, of forgiving those who have hurt us and, even more important, seeking the forgiveness of those we ourselves have hurt. We may have forgotten, but the chances are that those we have wounded haven’t. May I suggest there is something there we need to think about and act on?

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4 thoughts on “From the Perspective of Eternity”

  1. I couldn’t agree more about the importance of little things. After all, they make up most of what happens in our everyday lives and God is with us in each event, however trivial it may seem. However, I would love to hear your opinion on another aspect of perspective which, I feel, has gone awry in recent years. It was illustrated for me most recently when our local newspaper bore the headline “A Real Tragedy”. I read on. The report was about the death of a local celebrity’s dog. Having lost several beloved cats, I know only too well how devastating such an event is, but is it a tragedy? I don’t believe so, and feel that such hyperbole, which appears in many other contexts, is unhealthy. My challenge now is to ponder on the relationship between the importance of little things versus the tendency to inflate that importance. What say you?

    • In the particular case you mention, I think part of the problem is simply journalese, which knows no nuance and habitually uses inflated language. However, you make an important point. When we impoverish language we also impoverish our thought. I think, however, we have to weigh the significance of the small things against our tendency to dismiss them altogether. For example, I may return a grumpy ‘no’ when asked to do something and think nothing of it because I’m engaged on something I consider to be more important; but the person to whom I have been grumpy may be ill or lonely and in need of help, and my grumpiness may have left him/her reluctant to seek the help they actually need. Monastic life is often described as doing small things with great love and attention. When one can’t do big things because of age or infirmity, that becomes especially valuable. But recognizing that they are still small things is part and parcel of that — it is the humility of action, if you like. Would you agree?

  2. Rather strangely when I read “there is a great temptation to bury one’s head in the sand, muttering ‘This too will pass.”, I thought of the emotion of shame, of the things we are collectively ashamed off (and churches have that) and I as an individual faulty human being regret. I certainly have things that I am ashamed off, and I suspect we all do. Yet, painful emotion that it is, it is vital for a human being (a human being without shame, lacks empathy and could even be psychotic). The temptation is “to bury in the sand” what we are ashamed off, and be “our Sunday best” when we go to church or pray.
    But we have to bring the whole of ourselves to God and Jesus, including, perhaps especially the damaged / shameful areas.
    Apologies if I have gone off topic!

    • Not off-topic at all, although I think I’d say that shame is unfortunately one of the things that tends to distance us from God. Think of Adam and Eve hiding behind their fig-leaves after they had eaten of the tree of knowledge when what they needed was forgiveness and healing by stepping out into the light exactly as they were. I agree entirely we must bring our whole selves to God.

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