Faith is daring of the soul to go farther than it can see.
See Part 1.
To no fault of our own, humans are largely stuck with the idea that time is a linear sequence of events. Things happen one after the other. Yesterday was, today is, and tomorrow will be. We are constantly thinking in terms of the past, present, and future. Just look at all the verb tenses we use within our languages.
There is a serious implication for viewing time as a chronology. Everything appears to become sets of cause and effect. If this chain of cause and effect is linked backwards, all the way back, it terminates (or begins) at a single point of creation at the start of time. Because of this chain of events, some people would say that we live in a deterministic universe. Modern scientists have invented (discovered?) the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle to explain the randomness that appears to happen within the universe.
C.S. Lewis, in The Screwtape Letters, comments from the perspective of devils on man’s peculiar view of time as linear. He implies a larger, more encompassing reality:
…you must remember that [man] takes Time for an ultimate reality. He supposes that [God], like himself, sees some things as present, remembers the others as past, and anticipates others as future; or even if he believes that [God] does not see things that way, yet, in his heart of hearts, he regards this as a peculiarity of [God’s] mode of perception—he doesn’t really think (though he would say he did) that things as [God] sees them are things as they are! If you tried to explain to him that men’s prayers today are one of the innumerable coordinates with which [God] harmonises the weather of tomorrow, he would reply that [God] always knew men were going to make those prayers and, if so, they did not pray freely but were predestined to do so. And he would add that the weather on a given day can be traced back through its causes to the original creation of matter itself—so that the whole thing, both on the human and on the material side, is given “from the word go.” What he ought to say, of course, is obvious to us [spirits]: that the problem of adopting the particular weather to the particular prayers is merely the appearance, at two points in his temporal mode of perception, of the total problem of adapting the whole spiritual universe to the whole corporal universe; that creation in its entirety operates at every point of space and time, or rather that their kind of consciousness forces them to encounter the whole, self-consistent creative act as a series of successive events.
From our point of view within Time, an answered prayer appears to be two points in time, a sequence of events, a cause and effect. For example, when a person makes a supplication in prayer, either for him or her self, or through intercession for another, the person remembers that prayer as a point in time. As time passes, the person may notice the prayer is answered at some different point in time.
Accordingly, from Eternity (that is, from outside the flow of Time), God sees and acts, in a sense, perpendicularly at every point of time. There is just not one single point of creation occurring at the beginning of Time. Every point of time is a moment of creation. Creation is happening everywhere, every when. To us, it appears to be a linear sequence of “successive events.” (This is why nearly all of the saints and mystics stress the importance of living in the present moment. The present moment is where, or should I say when, God is present with us.)
It should be noted that although God is outside of Time, Time is not separate from Him. Time flows from God, within God, much like how a song flows from a singer.
Another point should also be noted. Because we tend to view events in a sequence of cause and effect, we might be tempted to say that we can cause an effect in God through prayer. I am not prepared to make such a claim. It makes God sound like a magician, which He is most definitely not. But I do know this: if a prayer is in accord with God’s will, then it will be answered. It will be harmonized within His song of creation for His good and glory. (His good is ultimately our good too.)
The purpose of the Flatland story in Part 1 is to illustrate the dimensionality of time. We, stuck within Time, are not unlike Square stuck in his two-dimensional world. We cannot visualize being outside of Time like Square could not visualize being “above” the plane of Flatland.
Furthermore, Square could only infer his shape from his environment in Flatland. He could not see his whole, true shape until he was lifted above his plane of existence in Flatland. And then again, he did not “see” himself. He saw his true self as reflected in the descriptions from Sphere and in seeing the true forms of other squares. We, stuck in our dimension, mistake Time and Space as the ultimate reality. Since we cannot “see” above our plane of existence, we think we see all there is to what we are. The truth of the matter is that we only see part of who and what we are. We cannot see our whole, true self. We a blind and do not even know it. Only God, from His view point outside of Time, can see our true form. It is only when we loose ourselves completely to Him can we really find our true selves.
Perhaps this exploration of time and prayer can help us illuminate a small portion of the mystery of the Eucharist. We view the Sacrifice of the Cross as occurring at one particular point in time, nearly two-thousand years ago. Scripture says that Jesus’ sacrifice was the One Sacrifice for all of time. No more will ever be needed. Some people accuse the Church of denying this one particular sacrifice by repeating it at every consecration of the Eucharist. These people are stuck within a one-dimensional, linear concept of time. They cannot “see” that time can be and is transcended. The One Sacrifice lifts “above” time and connects to the present moment through the Eucharist. The Eucharist is not a re-enactment of the One Sacrifice at the Cross. The Eucharist is the One Sacrifice at the Cross, connecting us through time, through the love and power of Jesus, to His moment of victory over death.
Maybe an analogy is in order to help see how the one true Sacrifice is present to us at any time in every Eucharist. Imagine Square sitting in his house within the two-dimensional plane of Flatland. Sphere comes along and lifts Square “above” Flatland. Square is no longer visible within Flatland, but he is still present. In fact, being above Flatland, he can see all of it, and in a way, he is present to all of Flatland. Square can also, if he chooses, re-enter Flatland at any point he wants. He does not even have to travel through Flatland because he is “above” it all. It will appear instantaneous to those living within Flatland when Square does re-appear. (Imagine picking up a coin up from the table. That coin can now be placed back down anywhere on the top of that table.)
If we extend this analogy to us since we naturally view Time as a line, we see Jesus crucified at one particular point in our time line. At that point, He was lifted “above”. He is still present to all of our time line because He is “above” it. He can see all of time. He can then re-enter the time line any where (any when?) He chooses. He instituted the Eucharist to do this, to provide nourishment, to provide a means for change from within, to provide a direct physical touch from Him to us, for our journey home along this time line.
Maybe this analogy also helps explain why many people say that the most precious Blood of Christ literally washes away our sin.
Next time (sorry, pun not intended), we will connect further time, prayer, and the Body of Christ. Until Part 3…