Now, is it just me or does it seem that our modern world is consumed with time. I would even go so far as to suggest that probably never before has there been such an obsession with time and the unrelenting demand to manage it and make every moment memorable and productive (according to a specific criteria though).
One might assume that this is the way things have always been; but Charles Taylor, in his book A Secular Age, demonstrates that the “homogeneous, empty” approach to time of our age has developed out of the disenchantment of the world and the birth of the secular. In other words, time has not always been viewed as it now is and further (of important note), time does not always need to be understood as it now is. Things can change – individually and even as a society.
With the removal of the Sacred and the defining of human fulfillment solely to an exclusive humanism that does not allow for anything beyond itself, time loses its thickness. When time is held in relation to eternity there is a depth dimension to the movement of our days. When time is separated from eternity we are left with just one minute falling after another … after another … after another … In this ticking of the disenchanted, secular clock we rush to fill up the space with experiences. We rush to “make productive” every moment. God forbid that one second slip away! In the secular backdrop, time is found to be an merciless tyrant and the supreme irony is that as we ourselves seek to master every single moment of time we are the ones who end up in fact becoming mastered by the click of the clock.
This does not have to be. With the Sacred and the awareness of eternity, time (rather than being a tyrant) becomes a friend. When I pray before the Blessed Sacrament there is a different depth to time. When we gather in worship around the altar heaven and earth unite – the eternal and the finite. When we gather as Christian community or in Christian service we witness to a different time. To be a Christian in our secular age means, literally, to run according to a different clock – a clock where time and eternity interpenetrate. For the Christian, time always has the potential to be thick.
My belief is that on an intuitive level we all know this, we all experience this and we all yearn for this. These are the moments in life when it all comes together, when it fits, when beauty reveals itself and insight is gained. It might be a moment of life changing epiphany or a simple daily awareness, either way time witnesses to eternity.
I think that the desire of the younger generations for something “more” (which I witness again and again in my ministry) is in part a desire to break free of the secular world’s limited, empty and homogeneous march of time. We, as Church, would do well to listen attentively to the yearnings of the younger generations. Like the young Samuel and the elderly Eli, the intuitive yearnings of the younger generations can awaken in the older generation an awareness that it has wisdom and guidance to impart. The Church has a different notion of time to give to the hearts of those who yearn for something “more”.
At heart, it is a radical act to live according to a different time frame but following Jesus – the incarnate, Eternal Word – has always tended toward the radical I suppose.