Marking and Measuring Time : in grace and gratitude

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This summer I attended a course at college called The Meaning of the Sacraments – which I really enjoyed. Mostly we talked about what baptism and communion mean – the two common sacraments the church celebrates all over the world. However, one of the texts we read was For the Life of the World by Alexander Schmemann – who is an orthodox priest. His theology has a whole-of-the-cosmos-focus and he works hard to challenge the modern separation of the ‘sacred’ and the ‘secular’ realms of human life. After reading his chapter ‘The Time of Mission’, I felt invited to conduct my own reflections on the sacramental nature of time.

What followed was my major paper*. I followed the line that rather than seeing time as a wearisome burden, perhaps we are invited to understand the times and seasons given to us by God as gift. If so, perhaps there are ways we can ‘mark’ time regularly and cyclically – using repeated rhythms and rituals as well as moments of special attention and celebration.

These photos are of homemade lavender cake – a late birthday gift for a lovely (and patient!) friend. I know I have written about cake so many times but I after researching my paper a few years ago they seem so important as a way of marking a special day with special food. We put the best of our ingredients together to make something beyond basic fare because the people we have been given to walk with are gifts to us, we want to mark their milestones, to party with them, to be thankful for them.

Writing this paper was such a gift to me – I had always had a hunch that there was more to birthdays than what met the eye – the cake, the presents, the balloons – these matter because they are a way of delighting in God’s gifts to us – in particular, the person we love and are celebrating.

If you too would like a theological reason for partying – or if you have always felt called by the mountains on your horizon to look to God for help – this paper may also interest you.

*A pdf of my paper is below:
tomarknotmeasuretimeasagiftofgrace

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Regular Onions

This was a piece of textile art I began in 2012. I attended a natural dyeing workshop with Kristen Ingemar through an organisation called The Australian Forum for Textile Arts and dyed a piece of silk with onion skins and cotton (a couple of pegs were the resist that made the lighter coloured square shapes). We were given a chance to sit quietly with one of our pieces and make something more of it. I was given the word ‘regular’. Onions are quite regular. They are used in nearly every cuisine in the world today. They are bulbs that grow up from the ground and nourish and bless our plates with flavour.

At the time I had also been reading a book called The Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon, an Episcopalian Priest who loves both food and it’s Giver deeply. He writes a poem in Chapter 5 ‘Wave Breast and Heave Shoulder’ that takes the reader on a journey through creation … mineral, vegetable and animal, seeking to point out that sacrifice of life begets new life. This is a truth deeply embedded in the Christian understanding of the human condition and most fully exemplified in Jesus’ life. Capon insists that somehow, Jesus is both Lion and Lamb, priest and victim … and that is how life is to be lived. Taking in creation that it might be offered back to God and others in sacrifice.

It is a wonderful poem but now back to my onion. I had been asked to reflect on the word ‘regular’ and had this onion-skin dyed cloth and so, I reflected on the very ‘regular’, very ordinary nature of soil sustaining plants, which sustain human bodies, physiological beings with spiritual life intimately connected to our physical well-being. The words ‘tov, tov, tov’ are also a quote from Capon, the Hebrew declaration of the goodness of God’s created world that is both deeply physical and deeply spiritual all at once (this time from a different book, The Third Peacock.

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