Today is the last day of the Church’s year, and because of this, the readings are informed by two major themes: the end of the world, which has been a source of meditation throughout the month of November, and Christ’s kingship, which we celebrated formally last Sunday. These are fearsome themes and may fill us with dread, and I would suggest that this is a good feeling to have. “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” as the author of Proverbs writes. God’s transcendent holiness is a “mysterium tremendum et fascinans,” a “terrifying yet fascinating mystery,” as the early 20th century philosopher and theologian Rudolf Otto wrote. Allow me to stoke this feeling a little more by inviting you to think about God in the context of time.
God cannot be domesticated and limited to an hour on Sunday (if even that) or to the specific moments when we invoke His Name. God is transcendent. That is, he is beyond all human words, concepts, and categories. God, in His transcendence, stands outside of time. God lives in an eternal “present,” if we can speak thus. There is no past or future for Him. Yet, it is precisely this transcendence that allows Him to permeate all time, making Him more central to our own histories than we are. In short, He is the King of time. Time is a creature just like cats, dogs, rocks and trees. In creating it, he fixed its beginning and will determine when it will end.
Someday, and we do not know the day or the hour, time will end. Our own personal histories - all of our fleeting, temporal acts accomplishments, be they good or ill, will pass away. The kingdoms we have built for ourselves (perhaps only in our own minds) with the bricks of toil and the mortar of anxiety will be as nothing. What will we say to God on that day? How will we justify the use of our time?
-Dr. James Arinello is a religious studies and history teacher, a husband, and a father of three.