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Thoughts on the passing of time

This little article is in October’s ” 3 in 1″ – the magazine of the Benefice of the Paxtons and Diddington.

“All that really belongs to us is time.  Even he who has nothing else has that.”

conker sept 28th 09

October – the tenth month of the year – least it is in our Gregorian calendar. But if you were living in Roman times, it would have been the eight month in the year – hence October  from the Latin word from eight – “ octo”.  Just so that I don’t confuse you from the outset, when the Romans constructed their calendar the year began in March ( in honour of their war god, Mars) – so if you are good at counting you will find October is the eight month. In the northern hemisphere, October of course is associated with autumn and in the southern hemisphere with spring.

October is a  month which for me changes quite dramatically over the course of its 31 days. It can start rather gently in the garden with many flowers still in bloom  and leaves holding their colour. But the change over the next four weeks can be profound – and once the first frosts have come many flowers succumb. Putting the clocks back an hour  heralds  the end of BST on October 24th and all of a sudden we are heading for bonfire night, All Souls and All Saints celebrations.  It will be three years since I was formally welcomed here  on October 18th 2006 at Great Paxton  Church  and it still feels like I’m new and settling in!

I really had a sense of the passing of the years when I was at Great Paxton school this morning ( September 21st). I was on a  Governor visit and was very pleased to be sitting in on a phonetics lesson with year two children  (I’m sure we didn’t have phonetics when I was at school!) All around the wall were the numbers 1- 100 – a rather long display and I gazed up at number 55 ( that’s the number of years I have reached) Goodness me, I thought, have I really been around that long?  The children in the classroom were only c 7 years old – with all their years stretching out in front of them. Looking up again at the 1-100 numbers, I wondered what the answer would be to the questions none of us can answer – how many more years do I have on this earth? How many more years will our plant survive? What will our villages be like in 50, 100, 1000 years?

The passing of time is a big mystery. The seasons come and go, and although our sectioning off time into days and months and years is very arbitrary, we do have a sense of time passing and getting older. In medieval times when life was “ nasty, brutish and short” in many cases, there was a great emphasis on being right with God as no-one ever knew when their life might end.  Maybe now that we all expect to live much longer that fear of our ancestors is less profound but there seems to me something important about being right with God- and with each other-  however old we are or whatever our circumstances. And if we ever catch ourselves, as the nights draw in and autumn leaves fall, wondering about this thing called time and the effect of its passing on us all, it’s good  to remember that God is the Lord of time. The words of Psalm 90 put it beautifully:

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.

Before the mountains were born

Or you gave birth to the earth and the world

Even from everlasting to everlasting

You are God

For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it passes by.

Finally, this little poem also goes some way to helping the anxiety I felt when I looked up at that row of numbers this morning and saw my 55 a good way along the track:

Time Is Too Slow

by Henry Van Dyke

Time is too slow for those who wait,
too swift for those who fear,
too long for those who grieve,
too short for those who rejoice,
but for those who love, time is eternity.

Enjoy the season of mellow fruitfulness ( as the poet Keats described it in his poem  “Autumn” in 1820)

Keep warm and may God bless you and keep you, now and into all eternity.

mike and mum  july 18th 09 no 2 hands

October 8, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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