I have been reading a book called "The Art of the Icon: a theology of beauty" by Paul Evdokimov. Today, I came to the chapters on The Sacred that fit right in with yesterday's discussion of God is Among Us.
Something is made sacred not because of the thing itself but because of God's Presence. Angels are holy, only because they reflect the Light of God. They are in the Presence of The Almighty at all times (more about time later) and reflect His light. Their light does not come from themselves but from their Creator. The same is true of the Virgin Mary. Her holiness is not from herself, but is a reflection of her Creator. So it is with each of us.
Yesterday, we saw that God dwells in the world and lives among men. Therefore, mankind has the innate characteristic of potential holiness. The eastern Christians call this deification and it is our true purpose in living. St. Irenaeus of Lyons said that "God became temporal (within time) so that we, temporal man, could become eternal."
Our turning away from God in the Garden of Eden, and as individuals and nations, causes us to loose some of the luster, some of the reflected Light that is ours and also blinds us to the Presence of God among us. We walk in a world without God because we do not recognize His Presence.
Within creation and within the Church, there is sacred time. We human beings see time as being rather flat when in fact, the above book tells us, there are three types of time.
The first type, is cyclical time. This is the time of the moon, stars and planets, and of clocks. Cyclical time goes round and comes back again. Seasons change. Winter begets Spring, which begets Summer, which turns into Fall and back to Winter. The sun rises and sets and rises again.
The hands of the clock, Evdokimov says, are always moving, but they go nowhere. We are slaves in this modern world, to the clock. Much frustration is caused by the feeling that we are hamsters running on wheels--always moving yet going nowhere. We all, eventually, feel the urge to "get out of the rat race" and find something worthwhile.
This type of time is symbolized by a circle or a snake chasing its tail. In Genesis, God warns the serpent, "I will put emnity between you and the woman, between her seed and your seed. He shall bruise your head. You will bruise his heel." (Genesis 3:15) Traditionally, Mary is shown crushing the head of the devil. By playing her part in God's design, she, the Theotokos (God bearer) ushers in this new era outside of time by crushing the head of the serpent who continually chases his tail in utter frustration.
The second type of time is historical time. It is linear and is represented by a line. We've all seen time lines in our history books. Time starts, goes on, and ends. This is biological time. We are born. We age. We die. This type of time tends to panic humanity. We rush about trying to distract ourselves from the inevitability of the end of our historic time on this earth. We constantly rush backwards on the time line trying to avoid "the end" like someone walking up a down escalator.
The third type of time is existential time. It is "the eternal present". Just like God (and other heavenly beings) exist along side us in this temporal world, so does this third type of time. This existential time is the true time. It is the time that has always existed, exists, and will always exist.
Christ said "I am the Alpha and the Omega". He IS the beginning and the end. Evdokimov points out that He did not say, "I was the beginning and will be the end." He IS always existant and therefore we are too.
What is not always existent is the temporal stuff of this world--the house, the job, the annoyances, the sorrows and even the joys. None of this lasts for it is all part of historic, biological time. That's why Jesus says "Anyone who loves father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me." (Matthew 10:37) He does not say this to be cruel. He says this because all that will last is Him in eternal Time. True union with God is our only goal and purpose in this life.
Christ comes "not to destroy the law (time) but to fulfill it." (Matthew 5:17) Time as we perceive it, continues to exist for us. But it is opened up through the eyes of faith, to reveal true time, which "is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow." (Hebrews 13:8) Through Baptism, we are reborn into Christ's Time; Salvation Time; Eternal Time. He heals us of our temporal reliance on a time that is merely a construct of our fallen humanity.
The Mass and Time
It is said that the Mass is Heaven brought to earth. We are not merely remembering the death of Jesus, we are made present in that moment by a God who is outside of time. We are "entering into a communion that does not fade away" as our author tells us.
Upon their death, saints, and all our dearly departed, discover first hand what we only know "through a glass, darkly" (1 Corinthians 13:12) that the we all are part of God's creation and that The Church Militant (those on the earth) the Church Suffering (those awaiting entrance into Heaven) and the Church Triumphant (those before the Throne of God) are not separate in reality or in time, but one before God.