Christmas and the mystery of time —It’s all about TIME…
(CUSA) – Ordinary time is a killer.
Time in Christ leads us to salvation. That is why He is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end. —Ed.
MADISON BISHOP ROBERT C. MORLINO—
As we come upon Christmas, I’d like to take a moment to put on my old hat from my time as a philosophy professor — but I’ll try to do it in a way befitting this limited space and broad audience.
I’d like to reflect briefly upon the mystery that is history and time itself.
Experience of time is subjective
Our experience of time is often so subjective that we can’t even begin to get at what “time” really means. What do I mean by subjective?
Little kids going on a five-hour car trip — they get in the car and after three minutes you get, “Are we there yet? Are we there yet?” It takes forever in their minds to get there. There is almost no limit to the time it takes.
When you get older (and I’m getting there), time flies unbelievably. Our experience of time can be terribly subjective.
God created time
But for God, who is infinite — without beginning or end — time is limited and can be seen in a much different way. Let’s try to take a look at the concept of time as delineated by our understanding of God.
God created time; it’s a creature. Time had a beginning. When God said, “Let there be light!” both time and space necessarily came with it because light cannot simply “be”; it exists and moves across space and time. We talk about light years, because it takes light time (though it goes very fast) to cross a certain space.
Another account of Creation says, “In the Beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God. And the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. And through Him everything that had being came to be . . . In Him was light. Light for the life of humanity . . . (Jn 1:1-4).”
So, God created time and there is a relationship between light and time. Light . . . truth . . . being . . . time.
Creatures, light, and time all have beginnings, primordial beginnings. And God operates within time for the sake of humanity. And God makes interventions that involve time.
Birth of Mary
The first of these that I’d like to examine is the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. That Mary was conceived without Original Sin means something in terms of God’s mastery over time. Mary being conceived without sin means that she was already redeemed, pre-redeemed, by the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which had obviously yet to happen.
In the Immaculate Conception, God showed an incredible mastery of time. Time means everything to us — it’s like the air we breathe. Time doesn’t matter much to God, except that it means everything to us, and He loves us.
Everything for God is now, so He can take the merits of the Death and Resurrection and make them retroactive to the Virgin Mary. That was the first major evidence, in the ordinary human realm, of God’s mastery over time.
Jesus born in fullness of time
So we have the beginning of time, we have early evidence for God’s mastery of time, and then we have the Incarnation and Birth of Jesus. And what do we call that in terms of time? The Scriptures say Jesus was born, “in the fullness of time (Gal 4:4).”
God created time in the beginning to be the place where salvation was to be revealed. If you want to put it this way, time, from the very beginning, was “pregnant” with salvation. And so, time came to its fullness in the birth of Jesus because, in the birth of Jesus, salvation and grace appeared.
Grace itself appeared. And as we ponder this tremendous mystery of time, we are able really to ponder the awe of Christmas. Christmas is awesome! That word, awesome, is tossed around so frivolously, but the reality of Christmas as a moment at the center of all time — the fullness of time — should truly fill us with awe.
Salvation for all people, in all of time, comes forth. The birth of Jesus is the birth of salvation, appearing in time, and making the time in which it appeared, the fullness of time, because everything that time is about is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
I’m running quickly out of space (limited as I am by space and time!) but we know the rest of the story. In the birth of Jesus, we have the appearance of grace, the appearance of salvation with which time has been pregnant since the very beginning.
The end of ‘ordinary time’
We have the fullness of time. And then of course, we have the Resurrection, which is the end of what we could call “ordinary time” and the beginning of the end of time — the beginning of the last days.
Why does the Resurrection mark the end of “ordinary” time? In its ordinary nature the passage of time kills people. It’s pregnant with salvation, but because of Original Sin, time is a killer.