Protopresbyter Vasileios Kalliakmanis
a) In every age, people want to measure, monitor and confer value on time, and, if at all possible, to surpass its limits.
This can be seen from the monuments of world civilization, as well as from some of the notions which have been expressed regarding them. For the peoples outside the Bible and in secular religions, mythological views have developed on the sacredness and recycling properties of time. And so the concept arose that time recycles itself. This was the view that dominated Ancient Greek thought.
b) In the pre-Christian period a variety of festal cycles arose. The first of each month, the first day of the year, the equinoctes, the solstices, and other important events were grounds for celebration. In the Old Testament, Saturday, the Sabbath, which was linked to the seventh day of creation when the Lord rested “from all His works”, acquired a profound festal symbolism. The number seven, considered within the weekly cycle, symbolized the completion of creation and, at the same time, the secular time of the week.
c) But the religious formality of the Sabbath day of rest, as well as of the other feasts, robbed them of their human content. This is why the Word of God, through the Prophet Isaiah was censorious: “My soul hates your New Moons and Sabbaths… Learn to do good, seek justice and assist the downtrodden” (Is. 1, 13 ff.). The Church shifted the central focus from Saturday to Sunday, which is at once the first and eighth day of the week, and thus opened the way into the milieu of the grace and kingdom of God. And the principal day of the resurrection became the weekly Easter.
d) For Christians, months, years, centuries and millennia are in the hands of the Lord Almighty. It is He Who governs it and leads to eternity, since He is without beginning and eternal Himself. Scripture teaches us: “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end” (Heb. 1, 13 ff.).
e) In the Church calendar, through the cultivation of memory, all these acts of salvation are highlighted, in which God came into history for the redemption of humankind. The Nativity, the Circumcision, the Reception in the Temple, the Baptism, the Transfiguration, the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, are experienced as events happening in the present. We also celebrate the memory of friends of Christ: the saints, the righteous, the prophets, the apostles, the martyrs, the hierarchs, the blessed, and the new martyrs who pleased God and loved their fellow human beings in dark and difficult times.
f) The Church manifests what God has done for His creation, but also what people can achieve when they are illumined by the Holy Spirit and inspired by the love of God. Even though Christians make the wish for “Many, Good and Peaceful Years”, they do not consider time to be the supreme good. They consider it a time for struggle and spiritual exercise, since they pray for the rest of their lives to be spent in peace and repentance.
g) With the assistance of the Comforter, in the present time, we prepare for participation in the Paradise of God’s love. People who place their lives in the hands of God and observe His commandments do not fear the future. They are inspired by the faith of the prophets, the apostles and the saints of the past, struggle to gain the experience of love in the present and retain a lively hope of their participation in the future kingdom and glory. Then they can turn to Him Who is the “Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” and say to Him “Yes, Come Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22, 13).