The prefects of the new Christian world order rising in Western Europe from the ruin of the Roman Empire divided mankind’s time on earth between the years before the birth of Christ and the Anno Domini belonging to God. In the mid-sixth century, St. Benedict arranged the hours of the day into a sequence of prayers decontaminating the flow of time within the walls of monasteries, time emptied of its doctrinal impurities and sexual intoxications.
The faithful elsewhere in Christendom observed holy days of obligation, among them the Solemnity of All Saints and the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, aligned not with the times of planting or plucking up but with the promise of their full value to be realized upon redemption after death by the sublime pawnbroker in the sky. The manufacture and sale of sacred time furnished the Catholic Church with its worldly wealth and sustained its political control of immoral nature made manifest in the sins of both the human spirit and its mortifying flesh. The first mechanical clocks to appear in Italy’s city squares in the thirteenth century were those mounted on church towers, not only to supervise the comings in and goings out of fallible humanity, but also to mark time’s blessed progress toward the triumph of its extinction.
Lewis H. Lapham