Friday, April 26, 2013

With no reference to time

How do we talk about eternity, a timeless thing, without reference to time? I don't think we can. We do not have the capacity to think that way. But we feel it. We can feel the longings of eternity in our souls. Time is always running out on us, sneaking up on us, or just plain flying past us. This earth is measured in time. But the new Earth will not be measured in such a way. In A Severe Mercy, Sheldon Vanauken shows how impossible it is to think about eternity now without reference to time. His prose is beautiful, and the following passage illustrates how foreign (and yet so natural) eternity will be:

It is a heavenly afternoon. Davy and I have just had a timeless luncheon (I am assuming that God will not waste so joyous an invention as taste). I then say to her that I shall wander down to sit beneath the beech tree and contemplate the valley for awhile, but I shall be back soon. I do so. I contemplate the valley for some hours or some years—the words are meaningless here where foreverness is in the air. At all events, I contemplate it just as long as I feel like doing. Then I get up and start back, but I meet someone, C.S. Lewis, perhaps, and we sit on a bench and maybe have a pint of bitter and talk for an hour or several hoursuntil we have said all we have to say for now. And then I go gladly back to Davy. She, meanwhile, has played the celestial organ, an organ on which perhaps every note of a song can be heard at the same time: that is, the song is not played in time with half of it gone and half yet to be heard. She has played the organ for a few minutes and is just turning to greet me when I come in. Whether I was away for an hour or a hundred years, whether she has played ten minutes or thirty, neither of us has waited or could wait for the other. For there simply is no time, no hours, no minutes, no sense of time passing. The ticking has stopped. It is eternity. (A Severe Mercy, 203-204). 
 It's good to think about these things every once in awhile.

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