Life is precious. Every moment of life gives us the opportunity to change thing, to make them better. This is one of the many reasons why we should never take any moment for granted. Every moment is short lived, but it gives all it has taken in and all that has happened in it and renders it all to the next moment. While we should learn from the past, and realize how it sets us up for the present, we should not live in the past, attaching ourselves to the way things were. Nonetheless, this is to our own advantage, for every moment has its own special grace which it offers us, grace which allows the passing of time to be used for good. Thus, Abba Silvanus, talking to Abba Moses, said that not only can we lay a new foundation for ourselves every day we live, we can and should try to do so every moment of our existence:
Abba Moses asked Abba Silvanus, ‘Can a man lay a new foundation every day?’ The old man said, ‘If he works hard, he can lay a new foundation at every moment.’
We can sadly squander the opportunity we have been given. We might not properly seize the moment. We can use the moment we have been given, not to change our ways and set up a new foundation in our lives which allows us to grow and become better by it, but rather, to do the reverse, to make new foundations for our sins, embracing more and more evil. Thus, the opportunity which we are given in every moment is a two-edged sword; on the one side, it can help cut us off from all that we have done wrong and so establish for ourselves what we need to become holy, or we can use it to cut ourselves from the good which we could achieve, creating the foundation for more and greater evil in our lives.
We must, therefore, embrace the moment we find ourselves in, and use it to engage the good, and all that God would have us do. We must embrace the greater good. We must detach ourselves from particular, lesser goods, if they get in the way of the greater good. Thus, though many things can and will give us momentary pleasure, when we embrace them, we find they give us no lasting satisfaction. That is because there is but only a little amount of good in them, and so long as we are attached to them apart from the greater good, we will find ourselves staying away from that which gives us true happiness. We have done this many times in our lives. It is this draw to some lesser good which leads us to sin. Now, we find that we can indeed detach ourselves from what we have established. We are given the chance to repent, so that no matter what sin we have done, no matter when we have done it, we can set up a new foundation, setting up the foundation which we need to direct ourselves once again to the greater good. There is hope for us, and for everyone, and that hope can be and will be found in the grace offered to us from moment to moment.
Sin, therefore, does not have to have the last word; it does not have to define us. Even when we find we have just sinned, we should not give in to despair. The passing of time gives us hope. Every moment is a new moment, every moment provides us new opportunities, new graces. We must, of course, not use the graces given to us to be unconcerned about what we have done, because we will have to deal with the consequences of our actions. But even the moment after we have sinned, grace is offered to us to set ourselves back on track. If we are sorry, we can then use that sorrow to engage grace, to being rebuilding and overcoming the harm which we have done to ourselves (or others) through our sin.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time; also he has put eternity into man’s mind, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 RSV). While we have been given temporal existence, we must remember we live now to set up and establish who and what we will be in eternity. What we do in time is the foundation for our eternal life. What is good and true in time, is beautiful, but that beauty is meant to be taken with us to eternity. Thus, we should do all that we can do to do what is good and in that goodness, establish in us a beauty which can and will be with us for eternity.
The opportunity is real, but it requires much effort on our part. Abba Silvanus said we can use any moment to establish a good foundation for ourselves. But he also said we must work hard to do so. Though we know we can make things better, we can’t just sit around and do nothing and expect them to be made better by themselves. We must do our part. If we have sinned, we must truly be sorry and repent and do what we can to avoid sinning in the future and repair the harm we have caused by that sin. This is not to say we won’t sin again, but we should not have the intention to do so. We can and will find our concupiscence and our bad habits often get the best of us, tearing down what we have built up, but if we are working hard to set the stage for a new future, for a new foundation, we will build more than we tear down, until at last, hopefully we will be free from the inclinations and habits which lead us to sin. The key is not to give up, to be resolved to fight against our sins, for if we are resolved in this way, we will truly be setting the stage for a better future. But if we get lazy, if we embrace sloth, then the opportunity will be squandered. Let us not squander the moment we have been given, but rather, embrace it, embrace the grace in it, and truly set ourselves up for beatitude.
 The Sayings of the Desert Fathers. trans. Benedicta Ward (Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1984), 274 [Saying of Silvanus 11).
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