“Eternity is the superabundant and groundless being that reveals itself in Christ as the truth of love.”
Contemporary man, still under Lessing’s spell, continues to perceive time and eternity as contradictory terms.1 The athematic but nonetheless pervasive atheism that holds sway over Western culture has left man prone to busy himself with the “things of this world” while living naively oblivious to the eternal.2 This decision, however much it was initially welcomed as a liberation, results ultimately in a conception of temporality that is dominated by monotony and meaninglessness. In order to perceive that eternity and time are not two refractory realities, and that their true relation is what gives newness to history, requires the rediscovery that time is patterned after eternity and directed towards it.3 If this is the case, then, without historicizing eternity (Hegel) or eternalizing time (Nietzsche), it would be possible to see that eternity is not simply a-historical but rather the truth of time.
The following theological essay offers a justification of the contention that eternity is the fulfillment of time because it is time’s origin, archetype, and final confirmation. To support this claim, I will give an account of time not so much in terms of the “measure of movement” or of a subjective category, but in terms of “life,” perceived not biologically but in light of an “ontology of gift.” It goes without saying that this sense of time in terms of “life” does not need to be seen in dialectical opposition to time as “measure”; rather, it includes it from within itself. The ensuing reflection is divided into three stages: the first elucidates Plotinus’ treatise on time to illustrate in what sense both eternity and time can be perceived in terms of life.4 The second part gives an account of this life in light of a theology of gift. The paper concludes by showing that time’s attainment of its own truth in eternity is an eschatological event whose nature can be analogically and proleptically perceived in the divine bestowal of mercy, which, as John Paul II illustrates, is the restoration of sonship.5
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