Fall 2016

Giving Time: The Trinitarian Origin of Created Spatio-Temporality

Ferdinand Ulrich

The father, who does not misuse the son as his own “future,” just as he does not regressively assert himself through his son, manifests his power in lovingly and faithfully letting the son go, in a releasing Yes to the other’s freedom.1 He does not make the son into a false god for himself, to whom he is present so that, in him, he can survive his own death. He does not idolize the son. He has let go of every possible form of “grasping” onto “his own” future in the figure of his son; indeed, he has relinquished these possibilities into the other’s freedom to let-be. He does this without having to overcome himself first in a way that contradicts his own purpose, for he himself is creative love. He leaves the means he has handed over to the will of him who goes away, and reveals thereby the power of his generative, paternal Yes, to which alone the son owes his existence, and out of which the son lives. The father does not consume himself in pensive brooding over the son's path. He does not collapse into a petty anxiousness that cannot entrust to the other his own life, that is therefore constantly already ahead of him (grasping him, as it were; anti-cipating him), coming to meet him in advance as the old (foregone) future of a father who wants to perpetuate himself in his son. The father does not displace the son’s own future through a preemptive worry. In this case the son would always only encounter on his path the in-different past of his provenance, which cannot grant him his unique, personal future. He would therefore have no actual future at all, but would be forestalled, banished to what has been. No, the Father’s waiting precedes the son in a different way. He waits hidden in the “sign-language” of the experiences that the son lives through and suffers in the foreign land, a sign-language that is pervaded by the breath of the Pneuma of love. The Father waits in the form of love’s purer poverty, which wants to be freely discovered. He waits in advance of the son from behind the son, at his back—that is, as the one who moves him through mercy towards his turning, towards a return [Kehre], towards con-version [Um-kehr]. Conversion is the place where the one who waits and the one who is awaited are present.


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1. The book from which this text is taken is an extended metaphysical reflection that takes its bearings from Lk 15:11–32, which the author prefers to call “The Parable of the Forgiving Father and His Two Lost Sons.”
  Significantly, Ulrich rarely distinguishes between the human father of the parable and the divine Father, and intends this simultaneous reference to both. For the sake of clarity in English, and bearing in mind the relationship between divine and human paternity that Ulrich envisions, “Father” has been capitalized only when the context seems to demand it.—Trans.