The first of January is the beginning of the New Year, and at the same time, the end of the old one. The Romans named this month January based on Janus, one of their pagan deities, the god of all beginning and all ends. He was represented with two heads, one old, one young, looking in opposite directions. Of course, this is a false god. He does not exist, yet his symbolism persists in our calendar and, every year, when we celebrate the New Year, we look in these two direction: the past and the future.
For us Christians, the only acceptable beginning and the end, the only alpha and omega, is the One True God, One in essence and in the same time Three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In God is our beginning and also in Him is our end. “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, Which is, and Which was, and Which is to come, the Almighty.” (Rev 1:8)
Our lives are lived at the crossroad of past, present and future: what we were, what we are and what we will be. There is a permanent dynamic that keeps us moving, without the possibility to stop, or to go back to change something, nor to peek in the future. So at this landmark, people always reflect on that which has happened while trying to plan for what is about to come, a sort of an annual rite of renewal that keeps one going.
In Christianity, time, however achieves a different dimension; the linearity of time does not really apply when our lives are linked with God Who exists outside of time. Time is only for us, created beings, but for Him past, present and future do not apply, He just is (Exo 3:14). When we join ourselves with Christ however, things start to change, because the more we acquire His likeness, the more we start looking at the world, including at time, from His eternal perspective.
Christ has become Man so He could affect this change in us. Saint Athanasius of Alexandria observed in one of his writings: “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” In Christ, the purpose of our lives is not anymore to live a mere 70-80 years (Ps 90/91:10) and then die. Our purpose in Christ is to push aside the tombstone and live everlasting in the Kingdom.
The good news that Christ brings is not of a distant future. It has the outmost immediacy. He starts preaching: “Repent for the Kingdom of heavens is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) United with the Incarnate God, the past, the present and the future become one. The eternity is now for the one who prepares for it with responsibility: “But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:27)
All these things are accomplished by the Incarnation and our personal transformation, by joining ourselves with the grace that Christ imparts to us through the Sacraments. Through Baptism we become citizens of a Kingdom that we cannot yet see. During Divine Liturgy, we remember the second Coming of Christ that is yet to happen, and His All Holy Body and Blood is given to us for the remission of sins and life everlasting. In Christ therefore, we live in time as outside of time and in the world like outside of the world.
Time is not relevant anymore for Christians: “For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.” (Ps. 90/91/4). Its relevancy has only to do with our preparation for what is “at hand”. This is the only proper use for time. But even that is relative: how much time do I actually need for preparation? Abba Sisoe, at the end of a long and fruitful life in Christ, asked God, with tears, to give him more hours to even start something good. But another father when asked how much time does one need to be saved he answered: ‘If a man wants, one day from sunrise to sunset is enough’.
Exiting time and entering eternity is not a matter of counting seconds, minutes, days or years; it is a matter of commitment. “Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.” (Proverbs 16:3) Staying fast with the Lord, the promise of the Kingdom is accomplished and time does not matter anymore. With Him we can forget the idolatry of time that plagues the secular world and boldly enter in the Kingdom even now.
We don’t have to wait for January to renew our commitment to God and our salvation. We can, and we should, do this every minute. We should continually look in the past to learn from our mistakes, live in the present with great responsibility so our future will start to boldly emerge from the empty tomb of our old selves, molded “unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13)
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