Chronos and kairos

Back in Kirkwood we wake up to a warm bright morning. In the afternoon it rains and in the evening you can see your breath. For the first time I can take pleasure in autumn, in the slow waning of the year.

*

The Greeks called the straight line of time from past to future chronos. But for them time was twofold: its other element was kairos, the opportune moment. Chronos was clock time that carries on regardless of us, kairos the personal experience of time. In classical rhetoric, kairos meant finding the right words at the right time.

For the early Christians, kairos had to do with the fullness of time realized in the Incarnation, the moment of conversion and the coming apocalypse. It was the intersection of history and eternity, the time when God acts in the world.

Now on my walks I always stop by the church. I like the routine. I like the heavy wooden door, the cold stone slabs on the floor. There are children’s drawings on the peeling walls, dull notices, faded black and white pictures of the parish. I sit on a pew for a few minutes to catch my breath, look at the altar, the wooden rafters like the ribs of an old ship, the stained-glass window showing Christ with two fingers raised to symbolize the hypostatic union. (How many people argued, fought, lived and died for that idea!) Sometimes I leaf through a hymnbook or bible… Relics, I sometimes think. Yet still here in the ruins, on the same ground as the rest of us.

Eternal God, which makes the moment seem like a grain of sand… Where’s the divine kairos now, when God no longer acts in the world, when the God of men has died? Where’s the intersection of time and eternity? When’s the right time, what’s the right word? I can’t call it him, I can’t call it you. But doesn’t the moment hint at it? Doesn’t it whisper to us of it? Sometimes I think it whispers something too terrible to hear, something I secretly want no part of, that might overturn my whole life.

But you’ve felt it, haven’t you? Its surpassing, sustaining power, which gave you room to breathe, as long as you were shielded by time, held in the moment. How carefully it has to be approached! But maybe approached is the wrong word. Questioned, prepared for, undergone

Advertisements

Comments are closed.