Chalice of Eternity: An Orthodox Theology of Time (Part III)

Mybeloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.  Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.

CHALICE OF ETERNITY: AN ORTHODOX THEOLOGY OF TIME (Part III)

(III) Time as Renewal: Growth Unto Goodness in Christ

"Therefore, let not a person be grieved by the fact that his nature is mutable, rather, by always being changed to what is better and by being transformed from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18), let him so be changed by daily growth he always becomes better and is always being perfected yet never attains perfection towards the better nor to limit perfection with any boundary." (Saint Gregory of Nyssa, On Perfection, p. 379)

Decay, unto death can be renewed as a growth unto life in Jesus Christ. It was argued above that memory for man can be the awareness that he cannot change the past, in other words, in the fallen experience of time man is impotent in the face of the seemingly invincible movement of time, so that Agathon could claim that even god could not change the past. However, as a Christian I believe otherwise in confessing Jesus Christ. Indeed, Christian faith rests upon the belief that Agathon was and is wrong. Time, as a fallen reality crushing the being of man, seen perhaps most clearly in the tragedy of lost time, can be redeemed, saved and liberated. Our time is renewed in the living, real memory of Jesus Christ in Whose death and new life in His living Body, the Church, we are baptized. Put otherwise, in baptism, our fallen memory is 'justified, illumined, sanctified and washed in the Name of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of God.' Our everlasting God has come down into the broken temporality of time and renewed our memory in the saving event of Jesus Christ, God as man and man for God.

Memory needs to be healed not destroyed. Often the greatest difficulties in our lives are the result plagued by evil memories, which wound and lacerate us as persons. Indeed, we pray at Great Vespers (Mega Esperinos) that God will protect us 'from vain thoughts and from evil memories.' Forgiveness is a process of progressive confession and absolution where we gradually let go of the pas (are freed from its chains) by confronting the past and then giving it up in forgiveness (forgetting it without repression) so that we can regain it back from Jesus Christ through His remembrance in love. This healed or forgiven memory is paradise regained, that is, 'radical innocence.'

We are given the renewal of our memory, this reality of memory shining forth with the light of the new age of the coming Kingdom of God fulfilled once for all time on the Cross ('it is finished'/Behold I make all things new'), in the perpetual rebirth--perpetual Pentecost--of the praise of God. In praising God, the Church is given the gift of the eternal memory of the Spirit whereby we remember the life of Christ as our very own thus redeeming all memory under the sign of Cross. Such 'eternal remembrance' renews the face of the earth and makes of it, as Fr. Schmemann puts it, "a liturgical paradise." Fr. Schmemann's theology of time is in many ways a theology of memory. For Fr. Schmemann, memory, in the Church, becomes an ingathering of the past and future in the present worship of the Church so that we can presently sing of Christ's salvation on the Cross and His triumph over history in His Second and Glorious Coming again as "the ultimate and all-embracing today of Christ" that is, "today, as a sacred Pascha is revealed to us," or "this is the day of resurrection" or yet again "on Mount Tabor, O Lord, thou hast shown today the glory of Thy divine form unto Thy chosen disciples," or finally, with Saint Ephraim of Syria, on Christ's Passion as our salvation now:

"Open your heart, learn in detail His sufferings and say to yourself God Who is without sin today was given up, today was mocked, today was abused, today was struck, today was scourged, today wore a crown of thorns, today was crucified, He, the Heavenly Lamb."

In Christ, as the Lord of Time, is realized the ingathering of all moments in one moment of what we might call an "eternal temporality" and which Fr. Schmemann calls temps immobile, that is, the co-inherence or co-presence of each part of time to each other in the present happens in Jesus Christ. Christ is Himself the Lord of chronos or time proper because He is the Kurios Kariou, Lord of the appointed time of our salvation. In Him, our broken mode of temporality, chronos is renewed and sanctified, ascending with Him to the Father and becoming a spiritual mode of time through its marriage with creaturely eternity (aeon). But when He returns to us in His Body and Blood in the liturgy, which is both our ascent to God and His descent to us, we see that our new mode of time, eternal temporality, is something radically new to creation, sensible and spiritual at once, as it has partaken of the very mode of God Himself as Trinity (aidiotes, God before the ages). Therefore, the central locus of this ingathering of time is our Lord's anamnesis or His recollection of His own saving actions in the liturgy in which His living memory becomes life everlasting by renewing all time in the new age of His Kingdom. The Kingdom of Jesus Christ is the very same life we will receive at the resurrection on the last day. It has been variously described as the "eighth day" or "liturgy without end" and it is granted as a gracious foretaste to us. It is a sort of liturgical in-breathing of the life to come in our crooked and wounded time.

It should be noted that when, in Holy Scripture, Christ remembers His own Body and Blood broken and shed for the life of the world, it is prior to the actual sacrifice, in other words, in Christ's remembrance, memory is not merely retrospective, in that it looks back at a life of sacrifice, but it is also simultaneously prospective in actuating prophetically the sacrifice of the Cross before it happens. Likewise, our Lord as our Great High Priest remembers us and all time before Father in heaven when at the Anaphora on the Lord's Day (Kyriaki or Sunday) the priest says both retrospectively and prospectively at once: "remembering this saving commandment and all those which have come to pass to us: The Cross, the Tomb, the Resurrection on the third day, the Ascension into heaven, the Sitting down at the right hand, and the Second and Glorious Coming." Christ's memory is eschatological, a remembering of the future life to come. Thus the Christian life is one of memory eternal where we live in the liturgical ingathering of all moments by remembering with Christ, the saving acts that have accomplished our salvation now and to come. In the Christian life lived as anamnesis, past and future converge in another in the present moment of our loving memory where we taste of the new age given in our midst, eternal memory is not the destruction of the past as past and the future but the clarification and illumination in encouraging each our in our present consciousness of Jesus Christ who gives us eternal life. To borrow a phrase from Berdyaev, "immortality is memory made clear and serene."

(To be continued)

Personal note: I am bringing to all of you the above article, the Orthodox Christian Theology of time, because I feel strongly that everyone should appreciate the gift of time that God has given us. Time should be used prudently and in preparation of eternal life in God's Heavenly Kingdom.

Today, unfortunately, we waste time on frivolous things and endeavors. We constantly say it, but do not really mean it, that, 'we are running out of time!' We say, 'I wish I had more time,' or 'if I had more time, I would do this or that,' or 'there is just not enough time,' or 'time is passing by fast,' or 'where has time gone?' and things like that.

I recall, in years past, in another parish, I had asked a young lawyer to run for the parish council and his answer to me was, 'Father I would rather increase my stewardship than to give up my time to serve on the parish council because time is just too precious to me.'

Not understanding the divine gift of time, we have become, unfortunately, slaves of time here on earth. Everywhere we go, and everything that we do, involves time. We have all kinds of instruments to remind us of time, i.e., watch, clock, cell phone, computer, bell towers, radio, TV, etc. etc. We are constantly running somewhere to be 'on time.'

We must admit to ourselves that we are not in control of time! However, what we should be careful of, is how we use the time God has given us. Please remember that eternity is timelessness!

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MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU

The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

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Glory Be To GOD For All Things!

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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George