I believe we all have terminal cancer. From the moment of our conception we go through this slow progression towards our own death. Regardless of the type of cancer we have and the speed at which it is growing death is a reality for all, whether we have a few months to live or many years.
In the current generation each of us is encountering and experiencing the disease of this age: busyness. It has become the norm; if one is not busy then something is wrong with them … they must be lazy or intellectually deficient.
We are constantly running around from one thing to the next and when we look back on our day or week it’s all a blur. We feel less and less satisfied and fulfilled.
Since having grown up most of my life in a slow-paced country and then moving to a much faster paced lifestyle, it has been and continues to be a huge struggle for me to adjust.
I have been reading a book this Lent that has really enlightened me about this struggle.
The book talks about despondency and our relationship to time. Despondency is given the definition of the failure to care about things that matter, for example our spiritual life and the care of our neighbor.
Despondency happens as a result of our busyness. We lose our desire to grow and be, our desire to dream and wonder, and our desire for deep intimacy. We as humans choose a busy life to escape the reality of our pain and suffering. Our minds as a result abandons the pain of caring. We lose the capacity to focus, to encounter and love which in turn provokes a toxic kind of emptiness – a vacuum that attracts all manner of distraction, restlessness, rumination, anxiety, fear and lethargy.
Despondency causes us to move from living to existing.
The root of despondency is the broken relationship we have with and our perception of time. We have confined our notions of time to fleeting moments throughout our life. We despise time as we always complain we don’t have enough of it as it is constantly ‘flying by.’
Through the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, Christ has sanctified time. Time is no longer a ticking bomb counting down to our final moment. Without Christ, time enslaves us whereas in Christ time is liberating and time, most importantly, is relational.
Yes we live in chronological time but through the incarnation, where the One who is out of time came in time, made time eternal. Despondency traps us in chronological time where there is only despair and it makes us constantly want to escape from the present moment. The mind prefers thinking about either the past or the future as they are both the constructs of the mind’s own doing and our mind can control them. The present moment is outside of the mind’s control and therefore is completely ignored.
We desire to be ‘anywhere but here; any moment but now.’ We have become dissatisfied with our present. In that way time has become our enemy, a prison in which we find ourselves locked up in leading to our own self-destruction.
Man now has the ability to live in the present moment, where Christ is. Christ is in the now. Eternity is now.
Only in the present moment can I meet with Christ and only the in the present moment can I dine with my fellow brethren. Christ is not in my past ruminations and He is certainly not in my future fantasies. We have given our minds so much control that we can no longer tolerate being present. Our minds have become the author of our stories of despair and as a result our negative fantasies become more attractive to us.
We become so focused on getting to the next big thing… the next holiday, the next event, next weekend, our next meal. We no longer know or want to be present and focused with the task at hand, we no long focus on the person in front of us or enjoy the magnificent experience before us.
The here and now is not about the duration of time but about my state of being. The present moment is not measured by clocks or determined by the mind but it is experienced by the heart. In the present moment we are transformed, we become more watchful, attentive and sober.
We are able to experience.
We are able to enjoy every moment that has been presented to us, no matter where we are or who we are with. Because every time we are present we meet with Christ regardless.
One of the fruits of despondency is lukewarm prayers because we lack the ability to be present. We then question why prayer seems like I am talking to a brick wall and why I haven’t experienced the joy and transformative life of prayer.
Unfortunately our society is so good at deceptively allowing despondency to creep into our lives with the bombardment of technology and work.
Fortunately for those in Christ and in the Church, the Church continually calls us all who are wandering back into Life, back into the present moment. One beautiful way She has done this is through the Divine Liturgy. In Liturgy we experience, if we are present, the eternal now. Christ meets us where we are as heaven and earth are united.
Liturgy has no longer become the center of our worship but the center of our inconvenience as we want to get Liturgy ‘out of the way,’ so we can socialize or get to Sunday school etc. We gaze up during Liturgy thinking about what we will eat after or where we will go.
Liturgy is the pinnacle of the present moment but we despise it, as we cannot stand the present moment.
Thank God for this season of Lent where the Church gives us things to practice living in the present moment. It’s a time to slow down, to attend liturgies, and to wait on God in prayer.
To paraphrase Kallistos Ware, the most important time you are in is now, the most important place you are is the one you are in now and the most important person there is, is the one you are with now.
Let’s be in the now to meet Christ and to meet each other where healing and transformation may abound for all.
I challenge you today to practice being present in the remaining time of Lent and hopefully beyond.
Quiet down your mind about thinking about tomorrow while you are present with the one sitting in front of you today.
Be present in whichever task you are doing now and if you have the urge to escape by pick up your phone for example, then wait a few minutes, don’t act on impulse and wait for the urge to pass.
Let’s switch off our fantasies and ruminations and instead switch on our hearts and be attentive to the here and now.
The present is not an emptiness but a Fullness.