Lines Written in Early Spring
I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.
To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.
Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.
The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:—
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.
The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.
If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?
This year I chose for my Lenten reading Beginning to Pray by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom. A small and unassuming yellow book, I could read it every year and still find new wonders within. One of the most striking points Metropolitan Anthony makes comes in the chapter “Managing Time.”
Prayer (don’t I know it!) is often forgotten, passed by, overlooked as we scamper around in haste and distraction in the attempt to keep up with time. Time, it appears, rushes away from us and we have to run to keep up, perhaps hoping that if we could somehow get ahead of time, there would be more of it. But Metropolitan Anthony says that this is an illusion – we cannot make more time; we cannot catch time; we can only ever be now. In fact, and this rocked my world in its simple wisdom,
There is absolutely no need to run after time to catch it. It does not run away from us, it runs toward us. Whether you are intent on the next minute coming your way, or whether you are completely unaware of it, it will come your way. The future, whatever you do about it, will become the present, and so there is no need to try to jump out of the present into the future. We can simply wait for it to be there, and in that respect we can perfectly well be completely stable and yet move in time, because it is time that moves. (82)
It was tempting at first to entertain the idea that if time indeed ran towards us that it would run me over. However, I also tentatively grasped the potential peace in viewing time this way – grounded in the present moment (which is the only place, Metropolitan Anthony reminds us, where we can meet God), it is not so much how time affects or limits me – “only one minute goes by every minute” – but the stillness I can bring to now.
What can prevent you from praying is that you allow yourself to be in the storm, or you allow the storm to come inside you instead of raging around you. … Learn to master time, and you will be able – whatever you do, whatever the stress, in the storm, in tragedy, or simply in the confusion in which we continuously live – to be still, immobile in the present, face to face with the Lord, in silence or in words. … we could simply say “I am in God’s presence, what a joy, let us be still.”
And so in this way, every moment, every now becomes an opportunity for prayer. Lord help me as I try again and again and again to remember to be present in the present, especially in these next few days – to be present at Thy Last Supper, at Thy Passion, at Thy Cross, at Thy tomb, and at Thy most glorious Resurrection!