Six o’clock in the evening is my favorite time of the day. Usually, the work of the day is completed (or winding down) and the late afternoon is still far enough from the night to give me time to reflect on the day and to plan the evening’s activities.
Six o’clock is also a conventional time when friends meet and family gather to socialize and to have a meal together. It’s a special time of day.
In the Catholic Church, at six o’clock in the evening, the Angelus is prayed for the third time of the day, twice before at six in the morning and noon. The Angelus is a prayer that reminds us of the incarnation of Christ with the following responsorial phrases, each followed by the “Hail Mary,” and concluding with a prayer:
The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary,
And she conceived of the Holy Spirit. Hail Mary . . .
Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
Be it done unto me according to Your Word. Hail Mary . . .
And the Word was made flesh,
And dwelt among us. Hail Mary . . .
Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray:
Pour forth, we beseech You, O Lord,
Your Grace into our hearts;
that as we have known the incarnation of Christ,
your Son by the message of an angel,
so by His passion and cross
we may be brought to the glory of His Resurrection.
Through the same Christ, our Lord.
Many Catholic churches ring their steeple bells at the times of the Angelus to punctuate the day, and in former days, before the faithful had individual timepieces, to remind them to stop their work or activities to pause and pray the Angelus, creating a sacred moment during the day.
Although I must confess that I do not pray the Angelus every day at six o’clock in the evening, I do think about that time as “sacred” and special, as a time of reflection on the day that has been and is still to unfold into the night, as a time to join with friends and family to share stories of the day, as a time to be nourished in body and in spirit to be able to carry on the work of the following day.
In particular, the summer provides longer days for me to appreciate this time of day more, and reminds me to continue to appreciate it even as the days grow shorter and fuller, with activities that sometimes spill over from the day into the evening. Sometimes, as much as I want to preserve this time of day, it flies by without my notice. And even though I lament the passing of summer and the arrival of autumn because of the “shortness” of days, somehow, the excitement of the celebrations of fall and winter supersede this melancholy, and once again, I feel enlivened to engage in the activities of the seasons.
The wonderful nature of the academic calendar drives teachers and students to beginnings and endings – projects and inquires that are started, conducted, and concluded – at least for the time being. As we are learning about student learning, it is most effective when student inquiry can be supported and directed by expert faculty, without providing the “concrete” solution, but rather suggesting further fields of inquiry. In other words, often complex questions do not have a definitive “essay answer on an exam,” but rather take a lifetime of 6 PM experiences to discern.
As we begin this new school year, my wish and my prayer is that our students experience the questions that cannot be answered neatly in a short-answer essay, but rather, take them on a journey through a lifetime of educational experiences to know “the truth,” to know “themselves,” and to know “God.”