instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

νυν καιρος ευποσδεκτος

Every day, we make countless choices, and each choice we make either draws us closer to God or drives us farther away from Him.

Though, strictly speaking, we don't make countless choices. Our choices are, in principle, countable; we simply don't count them.

And actually, our choices aren't merely countable in principle, they are counted in fact, by God. And it certainly sounds like we get to go over each of them with Him at the Last Judgment; I sort of hope that will be mostly a matter of formality and ritual.

Nowadays, we tend to have a Newtonian concept of time, as something that moves forward in evenly spaced ticks, measured by some object like an hourglass or a caesium oscillator. But we could also think of time as something that ticks along with each of our free choices. That's not something we can measure, as a practical matter, but it's certainly more relevant to our own lives than the fact that yet another 9,192,631,770 cycles of Caesium-133 radiation have been detected at NIST.

So the sequence of our choices produces our personal moral chronology, what we're up to at each moral instant.

Thus says the LORD: In a time of favor I answer you, on the day of salvation I help you.
And St. Paul proclaims,
Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
The difference between our personal "moral instant" and the "now" that is a very acceptable time is the old chronos-kairos distinction. It's not an either/or distinction, though. A moral instant and the acceptable time can coincide within a person; when this happens, we can say the chronos or marked or counted time is graced with God's eternal kairos.

We speak of Advent as a time when we prepare for the coming of Christ, both in our hearts at Christmas and at the end of time. But all of these times -- Advent 2006, Christmas 2006, the Second Coming -- are all perceived as points in a chronology, as sets of moral instants. What St. Paul tells us is that the moral instant of Incarnation -0004 means that any or all of our own moral instants can coincide with the acceptable kairos.

Yes, Christ will come again, in some future instant. But He is also here now; God's present is in contact with all of our instants. Whether we want that contact to be realized in our persons, whether we want our instant -- this instant, the one you're spending reading this sentence -- to be graced with God's eternal kairos, is the choice that will characterize this instant in the record of our moral chronology.