Time is a human construct that helps us order our lives. It was easy to come by watching the sunrise and sunset and calling it “day” and organizing the days into weeks, months, and years. We are able to “look back” on the past and wait for the “future” in dread or hope.
God, the foundation of our being, exists outside of time. Our human time constructs, present, past, and future, while helpful to us, don’t matter so much to God. God, revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are Life and Love, are simply present in every moment. Our time constructs have beginnings and ends. We tend to rejoice at beginnings: birth, weddings, careers, etc. We tend to saddened by endings: of friendships, relationships, and most especially, death. Human beings, tend to focus on ends and try to delay them as much as possible, become more and more oriented toward death.
Our faith helps us leave our natural orientation to death and enter into God’s ever-Presence with us at every moment. In God, time is compressed, we are there in the God event whatever it is. So when Isaiah prophesies and says:
The people who walked in darkness have seen great light.
Time compression is going on. Today’s Gospel quotes this verse in Isaiah. In our darkness a great light shines.
The human heart involved in, and moved by, violence (the very next verse is “the trampling warriors and clothes stained in blood”), can be trained away from darkness by coming into the light (Think time compression: Christ, the Light of the World. The “Light” is some experience of forgiveness that orients a person away from death to Life. The greatest sadness is when people don’t realize that it’s dark, like living in northern Alaska where its dark for 20 hours a day, and considering this “normal.”
Jesus, in calling his disciples and teaching them to call others, is forming an alternative community oriented to Life and Love and away from darkness and focus on death. Jesus did this calling of disciples directly after his desert temptations where Satan tempted Jesus to forsake his mission on behalf of Life for the power and glory of this world that always comes to an end. Jesus survived Satan’s temptations and could then start this new community, the Church, oriented to Life and Love from its roots, but as a divine/human reality, susceptible to Satan’s temptations to turn away from Life to death.
That’s why Jesus, at the Last Supper with his disciples, took bread and said “This is my Body” and took the last cup of wine and said “This is my Blood. Do this in memory of me.” The word for memory here is anamnesis. It has a special meaning. It is an example, par excellence, of time compression. Shortly after the supper Jesus was arrested, tried, and put to death on the cross. His body and blood were poured out for us. Time compression: the bread and wine become the Body and Blood. For us the anamnesis is not just a historical remembering of a past event, but a “being there” (Heidegger’s dasein),not in a kind of holy time machine, where you leave one era and go to another, but instead the event becomes actually present. This is all made possible by the absolute conquering of death by Jesus’ Resurrection. The Risen Jesus, Life itself, is with us in the sacramental moment. This is the food that feeds the alternative community we belong to. This is why the Eucharistic Presence is Real and vital and why we should not take it for granted. The Eucharist orients us to Life and away from the world’s focus on death. We receive the Eucharist regularly to bring us face to face with Jesus the Light of the World. The Light we see in the darkness! It is the greatest Gift imaginable! And it is Jesus who gives it to us, right here, right now!
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English, Anglican Communion) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.