Monday, 12 December 2011

Reading the Signs of Time

Step into Kairos

There is little question about how we as humans are affected by the passage of time. It is a constant struggle as we race against the clock to keep appointments, schedule events, take time to rest and recoup from the daily strains of life, etc.,   Yet linear time is an illusion in contrast to God’s time.  Theologians tell us God exists ‘outside time and place’ and  is able to experience our life as a single event – from the alpha to the omega. This now makes perfect sense when as a child we would ask the question how can God possibly connect with us at the same time as all the other people in the world?  St. Thomas Aquinas said [God’s] knowledge, like his existence, is measured by eternity, which in one and the same instant encompasses all time; so his gaze is eternally focused on everything  in time as on something present . . . What happens in time is known by us in time, moment by moment, above time. (Summa Theologiae 14:13)   

The awareness of ‘God’s time’ from ‘linear time’ has an enormous impact on our earthly existence and experience.  

St. Augustine in his City of God (Book 12) argued against Plato and Aristotle – that circular views of time were ‘miserable’ and ‘prevented the appearance of anything new’.  By contrast Christianity offered the possibility of renewal, growth, personal change and salvation. 

Jesus used a Greek term for this: kairos, a word meaning ‘opportunity or 'the right time’.  Kairos is distinct from chronos, the usual Greek word for time, which refers to the mere passage of events.  In Kairos the linear movement of time is less significant than the power and potential of every given moment.  From this, time is not so much a ‘line’ as a pattern of dots, where each dot represents a unique historical opportunity.

In the New Testament, the concept of kairos is used in a special theological sense, to speak about the timing of salvation. Jesus describes his own appearance and the coming of his kingdom as    moments of kairos. Paul tells us that Jesus died at a moment of kairos and that his second coming* will he another. To see kairos moments, said Jesus, we need to be able to 'read the signs of the times’ by looking at the world with the eyes of faith. Only then does the array of religious opportunity become visible. Paul urges his fellow Christians to seize the kairos and put their lives right, before Jesus' second coming and the final judgment**.

John Bowden, Ed. Christianity – The complete Guide, Novalis, 2005.  

Experiencing Timelessness

We have all probably experienced moments of timelessness.  Perhaps it was watching a golden sunset, a walk through a pine scented forest, observing clouds moving effortlessly against a blue sky.  A moment shared between two lovers, etc.  

All it really takes is an awareness to be in the present and letting God be God.  Many gifted spiritual teachers can help us or experience momentary ‘eternity’ without the need to leave earth. This form of meditation, can be a powerful tool especially for those who find prayer as difficult, dull, or frustrating.  The essential key, is to journey beyond mere thought forms and discover satisfying new depths in prayer from the heart.

A well known and proven guide to such exercises, especially for groups, is  available from most bookstores is Anthony de Mello’s ‘Sadhana A Way To God – Christian Exercises in Eastern Form (1984).  For those who prefer a solo effort I recommend ‘Wellsprings – A Book of Spiritual Exercises’ (1984) also by Fr. Anthony de Mello, SJ.   Here follows a brief outline of just one exercise called ‘The Center’

         I imagine that I walk into a desert place.

         I spend some time exploring the surroundings,

         then settle down to contemplate my life.

         I see how frequently I rush outside myself

-     To people, occupations, places, things –

In search of strength and peace and meaning,

forgetting that the source of all

is here within my heart.

It is here that I must search   

One of the profitable benefits experienced by most participants, just like the sunset, is to observe without making judgment and a sense of timelessness.

The universe could no more be separate from God than my body could be separate from its cells.  Moreover, the only emotion that I would associate with God is love, but it would be more accurate to say that God is love than God is loving. – Dr. Allan Smith as quoted by Bernard Haisch, The Purpose – Guided Universe (2010) p. 146.

*  "In titling this work 'The Second Coming of Christ', I am not referring to a literal return of Jesus to earth. He came two thousand years ago and, after imparting a universal path to God's kingdom, was crucified and resurrected; his reappearance to the masses now is not necessary for the fulfillment of his teachings. What 'is' necessary is for the cosmic wisdom and divine perception of Jesus to speak again through each one's own experience and understanding of the infinite Christ Consciousness that was incarnate in Jesus. That will be his true Second Coming. - The Second Coming of Christ (The Resurrection of the Christ Within You) P.  Yogananda

** see also:

No comments: