From The Attentive Life
Observing the hours can be a helpful practice for us in learning to pay attention to God throughout our days. Further, the hours can also be an illuminating way to reflect on the seasons or passages of our lives. I invite you to explore with me as we pay attention to how God has been and is at work in each of the “hours” we have lived.
Our word hour goes back to the Greek word, hora, which, David Steindl-Rast points out, originally meant more than a unit of time. It was “not a numerical measure,” he writes, “but a soul measure.” Isn’t it true that we usually think of the seasons of the year less in terms of the dates they begin and end than in terms of their effect on us: the cold of winter, the awakening of spring, the glow of summer, the pathos of autumn leaves falling? All these seasons speak deeply to our inner life. Just so we may think of hours as seasons of our life – the passages of our soul.
The most vital way to measure our lives is not by chronological time – chronos time, to use the Greek word – but in terms of kairos, the word often used in the Bible to speak of those opportune times that become turning points. Kairos is the word Jesus often used when he said, “My time is not yet,” or, “My time has come.” To be fully alive is to pay attention to Kairos encounters. As Paul wisely counseled his readers, “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity because the days are evil,” (Ephesians 5:15-16).
I like to think of the attentive life also as the contemplative life, for contemplative literally means, “putting together.” We connect the dots between the chronos and the kairos of our life, relate the hours that we measure by the clock to the hours and seasons of our soul.
Out of years of frustration as I tried and often failed to pay closer attention to God day-to-day, I have developed my own version of the hours. It is becoming a way to rein in my wandering mind and to weave together the inner and outer threads of my life. For me, observing the hours has become less a discipline to keep and more a reminder to be aware of God’s presence in whatever I am doing and wherever I am. You might say it is a kind of UPS – Universal Positioning System. For a recent Christmas I even asked my son-in-law for a watch with timer and bells, which I set to remind me at certain hours to stop, remember, and pray!