Thursday, 6 March 2008

Perpetual reality?

I'm taking morning prayers this morning and latish last night decided I would try and translate Jan Albert Roetman's short reflection for Lent from the website of the French Reformed Church. The image of the hour glass and the narrow passage of time particularly struck me.
However, I'm a translator, I should know that a short text which speaks powerfully in one language won't necessarily be easy to render into another language. Sometimes something that seems packed with meaning seems flat or overly pretentious when rendered into English.
And then of course there's the context. Jan Albert's meditation was obviously triggered by the ubiquitous figure of Nicholas Sarkozy whose continual presence in the French media has all but exhausted even the most sycophantic journalists. You can read the original French here and my rather free and perhaps not perfect English version below.
Jan Albert comes originally from the Netherlands and is currently the ERF's regional president in the North and Normandy. A meditation written in French by a Dutch man, translated into English and used for morning prayer in Switzerland - is this globalisation?
Perpetual reality?
New technologies, the media, some politicians and even the head of state make us believe that it is now possible to live in a kind of perpetual reality. The rupture with the past and the incessant reliance on the new, fills up and inflates the present to the very limits of explosion and to the detriment of the perseverance of waiting.

There's no longer any need to sleep, nor to wait to see what will happen. Everything can be lived in the here and now, in perpetual motion, in an infinite present … Our image of time no longer resembles an hour glass but an egg, with the middle inflated almost to bursting and two narrow extremities representing the past and the future.

And yet! Lent pushes us to re-read the stories of Christ's passion, to remember them in such a way as to make a pledge for the future. All the stories of the Bible, of the Old and New Testaments are readings and re-readings of a human story seen as a story of being accompanied by God, seeking always to be relevant, in order to place us ever more under the sign of promise.

The present is always dependant on a tradition of interpretation which makes the biblical story and texts come alive. So the gospel message is interpreted by those who bear witness to the words and actions of Christ. And it is precisely this interpretation, this re-reading, which is already present within the biblical texts, which places us day after day before the enduring promise of the God of the Bible, "I am with you always, to the end of the age."