On the Cusp of Wonder

New Year’s Eve.

Every calendar with its years is a culture’s invention, a way of breaking the eternal rolling of sunrises and sunsets into an order that suits our needs for what?

For celebration? For budgets? For control? For forgiveness? For hope?

All of the above and more?

Between the passing of one year and the dawning of another we sense a shifting, the movement of something that does not exist: time, the human way of marking turf in the eternal rolling of the spheres.

The tides of time pay no attention because, like time itself, the tides are timeless. They know nothing of us. They ebb and flow in ceaseless rounds of who knows what. And we, standing on the shore’s edge between two tides awaken again to the sense of wonder before what we do not control.

Perhaps Isaac Watts had something like that in mind when he paraphrased Psalm 90:

Before the hills in order stood,
or earth received its frame,
from everlasting thou art God
to endless years the same.

A thousand ages in thy sight
are like an evening gone,
short as the watch that ends the night
before the rising sun.

Time, like an ever rolling stream,
bears all its sons away;
they fly forgotten as a dream
dies at the opening day.

Our God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
be thou our guard while life shall last,
and our eternal home.

– Isaac Watts, 1719

Since the middle of the 19th century, Watt’s paraphrase has been sung to the tune of St. Anne, named after the London parish where Watts was organist. Click HERE for more on Sir Isaac Watts.

12 thoughts on “On the Cusp of Wonder

      • Gordon, you have me thinking. Maybe too much. Was it Paul or Tillich, or both, who said: strength without love leads to separation, to judgement, to control of the weak. Strength with love reunites what is sparat3ed,accepts what is judged and participates in what is weak.
        Perhaps we should still listen to the :Old Lutheran Existentialist.


        • Jim. it sure sounds like Tillich. Probably from his book on justice, power, and love. Great thought, from where it came. Thanks for remembering and for sharing. Hope you’ve had wonderful Christmas and that the new year is kind to you and yours.


  1. Anything mentioning St. Anne takes my mind immediately (perhaps 1/2 second of *time*) to the extraordinary Prelude and triple fugue, BWV 552 of Bach. The fugue is one of my ten “desert island” recordings. (There is one, the Bach B minor Mass, then nine twos.) Also, if you want to listen to the fugue, be sure you get a worthy recording — Major’s is good, as are one or two others, but some are really wrong headed.
    Sorry, this had virtually nothing to do with time. ☺️


  2. It is somehow, that when human kind begins to think themselves above the rest of nature, above the air, water and earth that we are made of formed around an ‘otherly’ that is our soul, that we really lose our wonder at what is around us, and what we are undeniably a part of. And yet we sense we are also part of something greater which in our time, thanks to the “Hubbles” of our making, we can actually see a little more of……. I think that is why so many are enhralled by the pictures of the universe that have thus been brought to our attention.

    If only we can put aside our business ( and I am the first to admit, I am perhaps too good at it) and contemplate what our inner eyes can really see.


  3. Not asking too much…. I love this. Right Gordon, anything that makes me feel a little better than a mayfly. Well… I’m sure it’s fine as it is and always has been for mayflies. Lately I have been thinking about “customized” religion. Right now I am visualizing mayfly dreams and mayfly hymns. Yes, I’ll read about Isaac Watts. Good morning mayflies, happy new year humans.


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