The Celtic Revival: Afterglow (9)
The substance of those things, which are made by Him, began in Him before all the ages of the world, not in time but with times. Time, indeed, is made with all things that are made. It is neither made before them, nor is it preferable to them, but it is co-created with them.
- Eriugena, Homily on John 1.1-14, Irish, 9thcentury
He appointed the moon for seasons;
The sun knows its going down.
You make darkness, and it is night,
In which all the beasts of the forest creep about.
- Psalm 104.19, 20
The afterglow of the Celtic Revival spawned at least two solid Christian thinkers, Alcuin of York and John Scotus Eriugena. Each of these great thinkers grew from the soil of Celtic Christianity, but each showed the influence of a more Catholic theological heritage. Each also made his lasting contributions to Celtic Christianity while serving in the courts of Carolingian Europe.
We will consider two excerpts from Eriugena, whose written works were more expansive than Alcuin’s. The first is from his comments on John 1.1-14 and crystalizes a Christian view of time.
The question of time has occupied philosophers, theologians, and physicists in all generations. It’s an important question, one every believer should ponder. Here we are, existing in time, never seeming to have enough time, and always hoping to make the most of our time, so that the time of our livescan be, well, just that – the time of our lives.
And yet how many of us can even explain time, much less how it is to be used? How can we make the most of something we can’t even explain and don’t understand? Where shall we turn to gain a proper understanding of time, and of how to use it?
In the secular worldview, time is the succession of moments flowing out of the past (since, for all intents and purposes, time began at the “Big Bang”), through the present, and into oblivion. Time has no purpose, no direction, and no meaning. It simply is.
In this view, time is only the present moment. The past is gone and remains in memory only. The future is merely prospect, although in a very real sense, everything in the future is already determined by the inexorable laws of physics and the “march” of time. From the “under the sun” perspective of secularism, it has no purpose or meaning, and the future is necessarily bleak. The only time any of us has is the present moment, and it provides no eternal significance, except as we might wish to assign it, although this means nothing in the long run.
Grab it before it’s gone. But, as is increasingly evident, within the secular perspective, grabbing and making the most of time can mean different things to different people. And frequently, when those differing aspirations clash, power is flexed, and someone wins, while someone loses.
The Christian has a different understanding of time. For the Christian, as Eriugena understood, time is a gift from God, the succession of moments flowing immediately from the Word of God’s power (Heb. 1.3), through the present, and back to Him for His glory – whether to approve or condemn. God creates time, and He defines time’s rightful use. God gives us time as a gift, moment by moment, and we offer it back to Him, moment by moment, every day of our lives.
God created everything intotime, and He created time witheverything else as the context in which everything exists. In that case, the cliché ways we refer to the time we are given each day tell us as much about our relationship with the Maker and Sustainer of time as with time itself: “wasting time,” “good times,” “hard times,” “the time of my life,” “not enough time,” and so forth. We know something about what such phrases mean with relationship to time, but what do they suggest about our relationship with the One from Whose hands all time arises and in Whose hands all time rests?
It is significant that, in Ephesians 5.15-17, Paul did not say, “Make the most of your time” but “Make the most of the time.” Time is not ours. Time is from the Lord and belongs to Him. Time exists above, around, beneath, and through us all, and it is kept in place, moment by moment, only by the will of Him Who, day by day, brings the light and makes the darkness.
Each moment of time is sustained by the Word of the Lord, Who upholds all things by His power (Col. 1.17; Heb. 1.3). The time you are taking to read these words is not your own; it belongs to Him Who makes and sustains it every moment of every day. So, whether we “waste” the time or “make the most of it,” we are saying something about our regard for the Creator and Sustainer of time, and we are doing so at every moment, in every situation, no matter what we’re doing in the time allotted to us.
Time is our most precious gift, as Jonathan Edwards explained, and the Christians of the Celtic Revival understood. In the time of our lives we love God and our neighbors, or we fail to realize God’s purpose for giving us the time of our lives.
What will the moments of time that mark the passage of this day say about your relationship with the One Who opens His hands and gives you the gift of time, moment by moment, day by day?
Psalm 90.12-15 (Landas: My Faith Has Found a Resting Place)
So teach us all our days to note that wisdom may be ours.
Return, O Lord, have mercy on those servants who are Yours.
Each morning let Your love appear that we for joy may sing.
And make us glad for every day You us affliction bring.
Lord, King of mysteries, You existed before creation and You are living forever still. Grant that I may serve You according to Your eternal purposes at all times. Adapted from Saltair na Rann, Canto I
The Time of Your Life
Are you making the most of the time God gives you – the time of your life? Maybe we can help you answer that question. Click hereto download The Time of Your Life, a tool that you can use to determine the extent to which you are using God’s most precious gift in the ways He intends.
If you missed our ReVision series, Small Stuff, you should download the three studies by clicking here, and discover how to make the best use of your time in all the little moments and things of every day.
And while we’re thinking about time, won’t you take some time today to remember The Fellowship of Ailbe in your prayers? The Lord provides for the needs of The Fellowship of Ailbe by moving on the hearts of those who benefit from our work and believe in our mission. If that includes you, please seek the Lord in prayer concerning this opportunity. It’s easy to give to The Fellowship of Ailbe, and all gifts are, of course, tax-deductible. You can click here to donate onlinethrough credit card or PayPal, or send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Drive, Essex Junction, VT 05452.
T. M. Moore, Principal
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Bamford, p. 81.