Time, and the recognition of it, highlights the feel of life during this month of January. At its beginning, the stroke of midnight launches a torrent of unrestrained joy and hopeful celebration at the arrival of a new year. Thoughts about the passage of time and the use of this valuable commodity occupy the front burner of one's mind – at least, for a while. Acknowledging the possibilities of time and its unfolding significance, I participated anew in the longstanding ritual of the parish Holy Hour. The essence of the traditional Holy Hour consists of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction. The majority of the time, however, rests wonderfully in the private, prayerful, and contemplative experience of being alone with God.
What happiness do we not feel in the presence of God, when we find ourselves alone at his feet, before the Holy Tabernacle! Come my soul, redouble your ardor! You are here alone to adore your God! His look rests on you alone! Ah! If we only had the angels' eyes! Seeing our Lord Jesus Christ here, on that altar, and looking at us, how we should love him! We should want to stay always at his feet; it would be a foretaste of heaven; everything else would become insipid to us.
Saint John Vianney
As if through the eyes of centuries, I spent some time looking at the architecture, statues, and stained glass windows. The awareness of being in a century old edifice, participating in an ancient ritual that was still powerfully affecting the lives of the people of this age was awe inspiring. Patiently, I allowed all the distractions of thought and senses to flow away. In short order, the measure of my being there was devoted to the divine presence and the all-too-human presence of one who wanted to dissolve into the spiritual environment that opened itself to the mystical reality before me. Speaking of the mystical, I came to an appreciation of what Church mystics, such as St. Theresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross, learned about prayer and meditation: the closer you come to the presence of God, the more silent and selfless you become.
Describing the effect, simply and profoundly, of being quiet in the God's presence is overwhelming. The quietness and openness is not passive but very active; it reveals a communion that is both beyond expression and yet organically natural. Mortality shrinks from consciousness occasioning an entrance into an enchanting atmosphere of peace. A feeling of increased clarity and enhanced perspective enters the mind. Not in spite of the tranquil spiritual realm that you inhabit but because of it, you are able to look at the responsibilities and stresses of life with a stronger capacity to cope with them. One reason that the Father sent the Son and the Son sent the Holy Spirit was to remind us of who we are and to assure us that we are loved. This certainty emboldens the conscience and the will to respond worthily to the grace and mercy bestowed upon us. Through this worshipful experience, the Holy Hour provides an invitation to grow in humanity and beyond humanity. Perhaps, it is not too much of a stretch to say that you are in heaven and at home.
The media allows us to view vast throngs of people throughout a world delirious with joyful celebration as the budding year blossoms. One might wonder what exactly each person is celebrating. Perhaps, it is a commitment to improve whatever needs improvement, a resolution to correct whatever needs correcting, or the concocting of strategies to fulfill long held dreams. Although it is an ephemeral distinction, people might be hoping and praying that the negative occurrences within the year that has past have drifted into history and now a new page has turned bringing fresh opportunities for a better year. Whatever the motivation, people believe that a new and bright horizon will appear.
As I left the now completed Holy Hour and thought about the year ahead, I am reminded of the Scriptural reference that God will make everything anew. And I thought that it is my calling to do my part to bring a "new" dimension of holiness to the way I live my life. Any new year would be better if everyone resolved earnestly to accomplish that manner of renewal. Then, indeed, the rejoicing on that particular midnight hour might make every hour of the unfolding year a Holy Hour.