The air shimmered. A flash cut the sky, but no thunder. The ground quivered, then settled, as in an earthquake.
Polly looked around. Trees grew thicker, taller. A lake filled the familiar fertile valley. Her ancient, worn mountains ranged high, jagged, ice-covered.
In Madeleine L’Engle’s novel An Acceptable Time, the last of five books in her series beginning with A Wrinkle in Time, the treasured author explores circles in time, the macrocosm and particle physics. In this story, a young woman named Polly finds that she can cross from her present time to a time 3,000 years ago. She can move from one circle of time to another.
When he (Jesus) came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor … .”
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Imagine that. Imagine that we’re gathered together and Jesus himself comes to the lectern and begins to read. And then calmly, serenely, tells us that the scriptures have been fulfilled in our presence.
How wonderful that would be. What if we could have been in that circle of time that day?
Circles of time. In her wide-reaching work, L’Engle explores travel not just through space but through time as well. And instant travel from one time to another, no time machines needed.
As human beings, we seem locked into moving in only one direction at a time through space, but she helps us to see the dimensions of space and time in a more connected, unified way.
What about us? Are we as disconnected from that Sabbath morning in Nazareth as we might think? What about when we proclaim together the affirmation of faith? As we say together: We celebrate his death and resurrection, as we await the day of his coming.*
As we share Christ’s body and blood, time and space collapse in on themselves, and we are in our past – our Passover, our present – with each other, and our future as we join in the heavenly banquet after our own deaths and in Christ’s returning to earth to gather us all up in glorious peace, joy and wonder.
In the Eucharistic prayer, this means remembering Jesus’ death and resurrection. But more than remembering. Bringing the memory forward. Living that which happened in the memory. The Greeks called it Anamnesis.
A couple of years ago, The Rt. Rev. Robert Wright, Bishop in the Diocese of Atlanta, spoke of having to be clear to the marketing team publicizing goings-on in our part of the church about the difference between Jesus of Nazareth and the Christ. Jesus, the historical person. And Christ — the risen Christ, the one who lives with us still. Every day.
Bad dreams have plagued my nights off and on through the years. Nightmares, trouble mares – for a decade or more. I have prayed and prayed about it. I’ve tried various approaches to get relief. A more consistent bedtime. Turning off electronic devices earlier in the evening. Limiting snacks after a certain time.
Nothing worked. Night after night after night, the bad dreams came, bringing their disquietude with them. And the disquietude would linger for much of the following days, hard if not impossible to shake.
And then, one Friday night, Jesus moved through the circles of time to stand with me in my present and led me to see that sometimes medication contributes to bad dreams. I did some research, found that other people were experiencing the same problem and switched that medication to the mornings. If I dreamed the first night I made the switch, I didn’t remember it. And the next day, I was free. Free.
Alas, as is often the case, that didn’t turn out to be a once and for all cure. Weird, horrid dreams continue to assail me, as does the emotional hangover resulting from them.
But Jesus is still helping me, guiding me as to what to try to find a more peaceful sleep. And I can remember that since I experienced his moving through circles of time before to show me the way toward the “holy rest” of our prayers,** he will do it again. And again. As long as I need help, he will be there with me to give it.
As so it is for all of us. As we reach out to Jesus through the circles of time, he becomes the Risen Christ, strides through time and space and stands right here, right now with us for this time and forevermore.
He obliterates the distances of time and space, and we stand with Christ and with each other, together, in the most glorious circle of time in all creation.
Book of Common Prayer, page 363.
Book of Common Prayer 1928, page 594