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What Time Is It?

It’s always God’s time.

In her book, Sacred Time in Early Christian Ireland, Patricia M. Rumsey examines two different approaches to time and how we should use it, as represented by monks from 8th century Ireland.

One group, associated with the céli dè movement – a kind of elite ascetic movement within certain monasteries – looked upon time as fallen and in need of redemption. These monks considered that the best way to redeem time – to make the best use of it – was through rigorous use of spiritual disciplines, especially prayer.

The céli dè  had little time for much of anything else, in fact. They lived separate from the world, did not engage in mission, kept most forms of culture at arms’ length, and devoted themselves to prayer, meditation, and fasting as their way of redeeming the time allotted to them.

The monks associated with the Navigatio Brendani, on the other hand, were very much involved in the world and practiced their spiritual lives in the midst of various adventures in mission. Ms. Rumsey perhaps rightly sees the two groups as opposing one another. The céli dè insisted on praying through the entire psalter every day. The monks of Brendan’s group prayed the psalms, but only in part, and while they were busy about other matters. 

Certainly, there is an element of truth in the perspective on time held by each group. Time is fallen, and must be received, engaged, and invested with deliberate intentionality if it is not to slip away from us into the darkness of unbelief, disobedience, and spiritual rebellion. All time is God’s time, and we should regard it as precious above all earthly gifts.

We need to be disciplined in how we make the most of our time. At the same time, we are engaged in the world and its culture, and we should improve all the time allotted to us for bringing the glory of God to light in as many ways as we can.

The key here is to hold these two perspectives in perpetual tension as we apply ourselves, in every moment of our lives, to knowing, enjoying, serving, and celebrating our Lord Jesus Christ. “So teach us to number our days, O Lord, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90.12).

Want to read Edwards on time? Write to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and I’ll send you a PDF of his message, “The Preciousness of Time.”

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