We are creatures who occupy both space and time. Maximus said they were created simultaneously: as soon as there was space, it took time to move from point A to point B. With space came time.
Material things exist in space and as sacrament can be made transparent to God. But what about time? Can time be made transparent to God? Water can be joined to Word, and a bath becomes regeneration. Can we join time to the Word?
C. S. Lewis liked to use an image for the transcendental dimension. He would say the inside of a thing is bigger than its outside. In The Last Battle the heroes are thrown into a stable to be eaten by a monster, but they find themselves standing before Aslan in an open field.
“It seems, then,” said Tirian, smiling himself, “that the stable seen from within and the stable seen from without are two different places.”
“Yes,” said the Lord Digory. “Its inside is bigger than its outside.”
“Yes,” said Queen Lucy. “In our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.”
I would suggest we could say something similar about time. Here is a moment, and on the surface it doesn’t last any longer than any other moment. But the same length of time can sometimes be filled with a content that is bigger than the moment that contains it. It takes the same amount of time to watch a television re-run as to meet a long-lost friend for lunch, but the content of the latter is fuller than the content of the former. Its inside is bigger than its outside.
When it comes to liturgy, we can say that time can be filled with eternity. The twenty-four hour day can become the eighth day, the eternal day, the new day. The earth’s 365 day pilgrimage around the sun can become the liturgical year. It’s the same amount of time, in one way; but in every important way, the liturgical year is bigger than the annum that contains it.
This was the motivation for this year’s Notre Dame Center for Liturgy June conference: to explore the ways in which we are invited to enter into Christ’s life more deeply every year through the liturgical celebrations of the Church calendar. Sacrosanctum Concilium expresses it perfectly in paragraph 102:
“Within the cycle of a year, moreover, she unfolds the whole mystery of Christ, from the incarnation and birth until the ascension, the day of Pentecost, and the expectation of blessed hope and of the coming of the Lord. Recalling thus the mysteries of redemption, the Church opens to the faithful the riches of her Lord’s powers and merits, so that these are in some way made present for all time, and the faithful are enabled to lay hold upon them and become filled with saving grace.”
The mystery of Christ is so profound that it must be unfolded over the course of an entire year – and more than one! Year after year we revisit Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and a lifetime will not be enough to grasp the consequence of this economy. And there is furthermore daily Hours, and Feast days of Mary and the saints.
Each year is an opportunity to lay hold on the mysteries contained within Christ’s life, and so be conformed to them and be filled with saving grace. It seems an important topic. We hope you have time (!) to join us in June. Liturgy.nd.edu