"Sacred time is devoted to the heart, to the self, to others, to eternity. Sacred time is not measured in minutes, hours or days," writes Gary Eberle, chair of the English Department at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he has taught since 1982. In this philosophically rich work, he laments the "time famine" of our era where individuals seem to have lost any connection with eternity or the depth dimension of life. We claim to want more time for things that matter but to make room for them we have to rush through eating, recreation, sex, and other important activities. In the end, we feel exhausted and diminished.
Eberle is right on the mark when he criticizes what he calls the "obsessive-compulsive" need not to waste time or miss any connections. Pagers and cell phone systems are taken everywhere, even on vacations. No one wants to be left behind, but this is costly: "Time will march on, the future will arrive with us or without us, and the price we pay to stay in step is to sacrifice our 'personal time.' " This is a tragedy given the fact that our personal time is soul time rich, textured, and expansive. Through our moments of playfulness, hobbies, pleasantries with friends, we express the best parts of ourselves.
Another aspect of sacred time comes into focus when we honor the Sabbath and take time to rest and restore our souls. In several linchpin chapters on the medieval sense of time, Eberle spells out how the Benedictine rule and books of hours enabled individuals to establish a fine balance between time and eternity. Their souls were replenished by tapping into "the fullness of time," a beautiful biblical expression that conveys the meeting point between the temporal and the eternal. With a masterful ease, Eberle reveals the ways the major religions make a place for sacred time through rituals, prayer, meditation, and ceremony. In a personal chapter, Eberle discusses what he learned during a year in which he devoted a portion of each week to finding sacred time.
Sacred Time and the Search for Meaning is an inspiring book that will compel you to reconsider your use of time and how you can enrich your personal soul time. Eberle concludes: "Like an underground stream, sacred time is always present, even if hidden, always ready to be tapped into to quench the thirst of the time-weary traveler. Sacred time understood in this sense is potentially capable of sustaining perpetual festival, a life of unending celebration. Periodic festivals, weekly Sabbaths, yearly rites, and periods of meditation, prayer, or contemplation allow us to use our binocular vision to achieve a depth of insight into the nature of the life we are living." Take a vow right now to end your time famine and to savor the bounties of sacred time.