(This is Neil.) I’m posting on this subject to continue looking at Sister Judith M. Kubicki’s book The Presence of Christ in The Gathered Assembly and because it lets us discuss the sacramentality of time (and because I do need to post more regularly). How do we think about time? Kubicki fears that “modern technology with its bleeping watches and digital precision has stripped time of its subtle layers and leveled each moment into bland and featureless equal units” that can be bought and sold like commodities. Or perhaps we have somehow returned to a classical view of time as moving in an eternally recurrent course from which we must be freed.
Following Oscar Cullman, Sister Kubicki suggests that there is a distinctive Christian conception of time that is linear, as redemption occurs in history and not beyond it. Furthermore, this conception of time relates all moments to Jesus Christ, whose Incarnation is history’s decisive mid-point and who is the eschatos toward which all history is moving. This means that the Risen Christ “can be encountered at any moment of our lives” through remembrance and anticipation, as past and future are made real for us in the present. Following Willy Rordorf, Sister Kubicki goes on to say that early Christians – reading the accounts of the risen Christ’s appearance on the road to Emmaus, and “on the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were” (Jn 20:19) – would meet on Sunday evenings with the expectation of similarly encountering the risen Christ in time.
Rordorf suggests that the end of chapter of 10 of the Didache began the communion rite: “Let grace come and let this world pass! Hosanna to the God of David! If anyone is holy, let him come! If anyone is not, let him repent! Maranatha. Amen.” The past is recalled, the risen Christ is encountered once more in the present, and his final return is anticipated. And, so, Kubicki quotes Mark Searle: “Sunday represents the altogether more radical idea that the life of the world to come is already here … Sunday is the eighth day, shattering the treadmill of the seven-day week, celebrating the incursion of life-after-death into the lives and history of the human race.”
But the passage of time is also the sign of “the life of the world to come” on a daily basis as well. Toward the end of the first century, Clement of Rome writes, “Let us look, beloved, at the resurrection which happens regularly. Day and night show us a resurrection; the night goes to sleep, the day rises: the day departs, night comes on.”
We can speak, then, of daily liturgical prayer (the “Divine Office” or “Liturgy of the Hours”), following Dom Gregory Dix, as “sanctifying” time, or perhaps as “consecrating” time. Kubicki prefers the second formulation (I should note that she ultimately distinguishes four role for time), and writes of the assembly accepting time itself as a gift from God and then offering it back to God to make holy in a “commerce of time.” Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC) tells us, “By tradition going back to early Christian times, the divine office is devised so that the whole course of the day and night is made holy (consecretur) by the praises of God.” The conciliar reforms meant to restore this “consecration” of time by reconnecting prayers with the relevant hours of the day, particularly emphasizing the alternation of light and darkness, so that the coming day could once again manifest the presence of the risen Christ and the darkness of the evening could manifest our longing for his future coming. SC thus speaks of the “chief prayers” of Lauds and Vespers as “the two hinges on which the daily office turns.”
When we come together in the morning to pray and see Christ in the light that has overcome the darkness, or in the evening to express and intensify our longing for Christ the true sun to return again, we are gathered as the Body of Christ, united by Christ with the Father and in the Spirit. Thus, “As we celebrate the office, therefore, we must recognize our own voices echoing in Christ, his voice echoing in us” (Laudis Canticum).
But do we do this? Of course, the Liturgy of the Hours is not an eighth sacrament, but SC says, “The laity, too, are encouraged to recite the divine office, either with the priests, or among themselves, or even individually.” Indeed, as Sister Kubicki says, “This is the priestly office of the baptized – to raise up the world and its needs to the throne of God.” She offers a few suggestions of how we might better embrace the Liturgy of the Hours and the sacramentality of time. One is to concentrate on “high points” of the liturgical year.
Well, I don’t think that I did justice to the subject (I’ll have to return to it). Comments especially and always welcome.