the time is noon

A little snippet of something I wrote in my journal last week - edited for a blog audience where necessary, of course.

I hear my parents taking down the Christmas tree downstairs (my Mother exclaiming over the amount of pine needles left on the floor) and I, here, in the silence of my room, preparing to return to school, to schedule and routine, to writing papers and reading textbooks. And as I think back over this holiday season, these words linger in my mind:

(I know it is long - but it is worth it, truly.)

"Well, so that is that. Now we must dismantle the tree,
Putting the decorations back into their cardboard boxes -
Some have got broken - and carrying them up to the attic.
The holly and the mistletoe must be taken down and burnt,
And the children got ready for school. There are enough
Left-overs to do, warmed-up, for the rest of the week -
Not that we have much appetite, having drunk such a lot,
Stayed up so late, attempted - quite unsuccessfully -
To love all of our relatives, and in general
Grossly overestimated our powers. Once again
As in previous years we have seen the actual Vision and failed
To do more than entertain it as an agreeable
Possibility, once again we have sent Him away,
Begging though to remain His disobedient servant,
The promising child who cannot keep His word for long.
The Christmas Feast is already a fading memory,
And already the mind begins to be vaguely aware
Of an unpleasant whiff of apprehension at the thought
Of Lent and Good Friday which cannot, after all, now
Be very far off. But, for the time being, here we all are,
Back in the moderate Aristotelian city
Of darning and Eight-Fifteen, where Euclid's geometry
And Newton's mechanics would account for our experience,
And the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.
It seems to have shrunk during the holidays. The streets
Are much narrower than we remembered; we had forgotten
The office was as depressing as this. To those who have seen
The Child, however dimly, however incredulously,
The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all.
{ . . . }
There are bills to be paid, machines to keep in repair,
Irregular verbs to learn, the Time Being to redeem
From insignificance. The happy morning is over,
The night of agony still to come; the time is noon:
When the spirit must practice his scales of rejoicing
Without even a hostile audience, and the soul endure
A silence that is neither for nor against her faith
That God's Will will be done, that, in spite of her prayers,
God will cheat no one, not even the world of its triumph."

(W. H. Auden, from the poem For the Time Being)

Yes, how grossly I overestimated my powers this Christmas break - I have seen the Vision of what it should have been, of how I should have been, and failed.

There were unnecessary and harsh words spoken. There was too little grace given. There was overindulgence and selfishness and frustration.

And I begged again and again to return to him as the disobedient servant, the child who cannot keep her word. I have one hand in a pot of gold, and the other in his side.

Is this what characterizes the Time Being, this odd period between incarnation and resurrection, between the hope of a child and the triumph of an empty tomb - and ultimately, the triumph of the world from death? It feels tiresome and tedious and insignificant, like I am getting no where - this constant running away and returning, like a prodigal. Is this the way it must be?

("The Time Being is, in a sense, the most trying time of all.")

But if this is true, what does it look like to redeem the Time Being?

Auden writes of practicing scales of rejoicing - daily discipline - prayer, solitude, fasting, gratitude. And silent faith that God's Will will be done, trusting that, in the end, all manner of things will be made right, that God will cheat no one. (Those words brim with grace.)

And so I fold my laundry and pack my suitcase and put away my gifts from under the tree. I take the prayer book off the shelf and sit in silence. I read a psalm or two. And I begin to practice my scales again - these scandalous scales of rejoicing and hope that can be played and practiced, even in the Time Being.

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