As a fundamental dimension of creaturely existence, “time” or temporality distinguishes the cosmos in a decisive way from its Creator. While fallen man is tempted to find his alienation from the immutable peace of divine eternity reflected in time’s passage, the authors included here recall that time flows originally from the creature’s participation in God’s life. Rather than a sign of the creature’s non-reality before God, these authors attest, time instead belongs to the goodness of finite being and its ultimate destiny in God.
In “Technology and Time,” Michael Hanby contrasts an ontological conception of time, represented by both classical and Christian thought, to modernity’s technological reduction of time to indifferent formal extension that is merely available for calculation. By failing to receive time as a dimension of the creature’s given actuality, and thus as an expression of its participation in eternity, our current era reimagines time on the model of navigable space. The present is treated as a negative limit, a frontier that must be perpetually transgressed in advancing toward the future while leaving the past behind. “In a technological society, it will therefore be impossible to maintain that unity of past, present, and future that is traditio, the handing on of received wisdom and culture, a properly human inheritance, from one generation to the next.”
In “The Consummation of the World as a Re-capitulation,” Martin Bieler considers temporality as the structure according to which human freedom develops towards perfect intimacy with God. “The gift of time is of the same value as the granting of contingency, without which there is no implementation of freedom, without which there can be no life.” Time, Bieler affirms, arises from the communication of being, through which man is called and freed to answer the all-encompassing Love that wholly supports his action. In this way, man’s linear path forward is meant to lead him more deeply into his eternal Origin. As such, creaturely movement and the time of human living is inwardly open to its recapitulation in Christ, through whom time is raised into the trinitarian exchange of love.
In “The Experience of the Unity of Time and Christian Faith in the Thought of Ferdinand Ulrich,” Ricardo Aldana explains how, for Ulrich, the present is best understood in light of the human person’s thanksgiving for having received being and his secure hope in God’s continual gift of being. As Aldana shows, faithful memory of one’s origin in God, for which one is set free by the grace of Christ, is indissoluble from the “forgetfulness” of loving abandonment to the providential gift of the future.
In our final article, “Being, Gift, Self-Gift (Part Two),” David L. Schindler continues his dialogue with Michael Waldstein, in light of the thought of Pope-Saint John Paul II. Preceded and radically characterized by the creative love that lets it be, the creature is given being in such a way that it fruitfully bears this gift forth. Its every act, already its very self-reception, is at root a form of generous response to God in and with the whole community of creatures. In this sense, Schindler writes, “my initiative as a creature in relation to the Creator presupposes, and is always borne from within by, the initiative of the Creator in me, even as the Creator graciously involves me in enacting that relation from the beginning of my existence.” The concluding sections of the essay interpret and draw out implications of John Paul II’s “hermeneutic of the gift.”
In Retrieving the Tradition, we first present two excerpts from works by Ferdinand Ulrich. In the first selection, “Giving Time: The Trinitarian Origin of Created Spatio-Temporality,” Ulrich contemplates the mystery of divine patience. According to Ulrich, temporality is ultimately an expression of God’s hopeful entrustment of freedom to the creature, an abiding hope whose presence sustains the human person’s loving response and liberates the sinner’s return to love. “Given time is the epiphany of [God’s] patience of mercy. Not empty, arbitrary time, but the time of love.” The second piece, “‘Once upon a Time’: Preserving the Past in a Presence Open to the Future,” involves a meditation on freedom’s living relation to its ontological past. By gratefully affirming now that he has already received being and that he continues to live out of this gift, the human person is opened up to the ongoing promise that he will continue to exist, and is thereby free to actively dwell in the present.
Also in Retrieving the Tradition, Louis Bouyer’s “The Mystery of the Liturgical Year: The Easter Liturgy” ponders the relationship between the sacramental commemoration of Jesus Christ in the Mass and the gradual unfolding of Christ’s life across the cycle of the liturgical year. “In the Feasts, as in everything else in the Church, it is the Eucharist which makes actual the presence of the Mystery. But the celebration of the various Feasts, in connection with the Eucharist, brings about a development of the Mystery in us.” According to Bouyer, participation in the liturgical calendar’s rhythms fulfills and transfigures the natural shape of human life in time, including its inner orientation towards death, in light of the crucifixion, Resurrection, and eschatological parousia of Christ.
In Notes & Comments we feature Dorothee Brunner’s “Pre-verberation of Eternity: Olivier Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la Fin du Temps,” in which Messiaen’s celebrated work is interpreted as a musical portrayal of the lifting up of time into eternity. Composed in a German prison camp during World War II, the Quatuor is a reverent meditation on the Book of Revelation, one which, the author suggests, is meant to impart and inspire theological hope. The composer pursues this challenge of depicting the eschaton out of his conviction that “time makes eternity understandable for us.” In this effort, Messiaen discovers a style that Brunner says “effectively transcends the regular musical measure of time.”