An Orthodox Theology of Time – II / V
The Persistence of Memory – Salvador Dali
Nature of Time: What is time? What is its relation to God’s mode of being? Time as understood in its relation to the Church as a receptacle of the eternal Kingdom of God.
“What is time? Who can explain this easily and briefly? Who can comprehend this even in thought so as to articulate the answer in words?
Yet what do we speak of, in our familiar everyday conversation, more than of time?
We surely know what we mean when we speak of it.
We also know what is meant when we hear someone else taking about it.
What then is time? Provided that no one asks me, I know.
If I want to explain it to an inquirer, I do not know”
(Augustine’s Confessions,11.14.17, p. 230)
Some Fathers, including Sts. Basil the Great and Maximus the Confessor, spoke of three modes of being (i.e. time (chronos), age or creaturely eternity (aeon) and the everlasting or uncreated eternity (aidios, aidiotes) and sometimes … proaionios or the pre-eternal which is ateleutetos or without an end)), not just the two of time and eternity.
…First, everlastingness or everexistingness (aidiotes) is the mode of being only of God, who is utterly beyond the distinction between time and creaturely eternity, being and non-being, since He is the pre-eternal (proaionios) God who is “endless” in the sense of being beyond duration. Everlastingness is essentially a negative or apophatic category emphasizing God’s unknowableness.
… God is indefinable as the ho pro aionon Theos (Slavonic: prevechnyi Bog) which can be translated as ‘the pre-eternal God’ or ‘God before the ages.’ As the Kontakion of Christmas puts it:
Today the Virgin gives birth to him who is above all being [ton huperousion], and the earth offers the cave to him whom no one can approach; Angels with Shepherds give glory, while Magi journey with a star, for to us there has been born a little child, God before the ages [ho pro aionon Theos].
Second, we have creaturely eternity/age (aion–aionios), which is the creaturely mode of being of the supra-cosmic or spiritual creation of God—angels. [Human beings too. Both Angels and humans are eternal, because although they were created in Time, they do not have an end]. This mode of being is not one that excludes change but it is not bound by the distinctions of our present time’s version of change. The past is not utterly past but it is contained in the present as is the future and the future in the past and the past in the future so that eternity is a sort of perichoretic version of time. This, I would argue, is what Schmemann was getting at when he wrote that points in time can be gathered together and encountered simultaneously:
“In an instant, not only are all such breaths of happiness remembered but they are present and alive—that Holy Saturday in Paris when I was a young man—and many such ‘breaks.’ It seems to me that eternity might be not the stopping of time, but precisely its resurrection and gathering.”
Moreover, there is in the Kingdom of God, which is an eternal Kingdom not of this world, an enduring quality of being where one forever praises God from one moment to the next—a sort of sempiternal or eternal duration—without in any way being trapped in growing old or being trapped in the inexperience of youth. In such eternal duration, the goodness of God is always desired and always held in its fullness at the same time as that goodness continually increases our capacity and desire for it although we never possess this goodness in its fullness.
Time in physical creation, as we now experience it under the weight of sin, is understood as a reality with a strict division between past, present and future where the person in time, who has turned his back on God’s grace in Jesus Christ, is prevented from being present to more than one division at once. Thus when I err under the weight of sin I cannot be present to here and there at once since I am bound to here.
… Christ heals our time (chronos), and indeed the time of the invisible creation (aeon), by making it His time of opportunity for our salvation in Him (kairos).
Time, as Christ’s time, becomes a means to our perfection in Him rather than the ultimate expression of our rejection of God’s grace. Through Him in His Body the Church we come to partake in the mode of being of the invisible creation, creaturely eternity, but this eternity or time of the invisible creation becomes wedded with our sensible time, remade for an embodied being like man, through participating in the everlasting life of God. Time is, therefore, remade and renewed in the Church as the Kingdom of God and we have a foretaste of this renewal in the liturgy.
[Chronos, Kairos and Eternity, or, Agape. Because Eternity is Hypostatical Agape in God]
Source: Excerpts from Gallaher, Brandon ‘s Orthodox Theology of Time http://www.bogoslov.ru/en/text/2668945.html#_ftnref1
To Be Continued …
For Part I go to https://orthodoxcityhermit.com/2015/12/18/chalice-of-eternity/
For Part III go to https://orthodoxcityhermit.com/2015/12/18/4497/