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On New Year's Day
We and the Time

By Rev. George Dimopoulos
Dec 30, 2010, 10:00
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Source: Holy Trinity Orthodox School

 

 

In these days, my beloved brethren, millions of men accept the first day of January as the beginning of the new year, regardless of religion, race, or language. They exchange cards with wishes for a long life and a happy new year. Of course, most of them perform this duty just as a custom, without any philosophical or metaphysical regard for the significance of the mystery which we call Time. It is my desire to wish all of you a very happy new year full of prosperity, love, and understanding. Secondly, I want to explore with you for a few minutes the meaning of Time.

For many people, time, hronos, is all subduing. It is like a river which at times can be calm, and at other times a raging torrent, sweeping along in its current all the handiwork of men into the oblivion of eternity.

The passage of time cannot be opposed, stopped or even slowed down either by the most powerful dictators of nations, by the ingenuity of man, or by the miracles of modern science. The fate, the predestination of Time, subdivides everything.

Time has no pity for the innocence of childhood, or the beauty of youth, or the power of man who has matured; nor does it respect the white hairs of the aged; nor does it pay heed to a man's position and standing. Everything in time fades; everything in time is degraded; everything in time is destroyed.

Perhaps this was what inspired the wise writer of the Ecclesiastes, in the Old Testament, to say, "Vanity vanity, all is vanity."

Exactly what is time? Time is the measure of our lives. It is purely subjective. When we cease to exist, so does time. Many philosophers divided time into three parts past, present, and future. We live only in the present. That is all we can comprehend. The past is something which has disappeared. The future is what is unknown and uncertain. In faith, we believe in an eternity, yet we cannot conceive of it by measurements of time, because once we limit it by any type of measurement it ceases to be eternity. Therefore, for us, we comprehend only the present, that one undivided moment which is running as I am speaking. The use we make of this moment is our price for eternity. The great question for us, therefore, is how to best exploit this moment.

In the Middle Ages, men were constantly reminded of time by symbols of death placed in every room and on every street. Those symbols were obvious reminders that the present for mortal man was limited, and that a day was coming when man would be obliged to leave this earthly life. Modern man today does not want even to hear of death. He hates it. The new symbols of time, therefore, are the clocks. This is a much clearer conception of time than that of the Middle Ages. Clocks today govern our lives. We cannot live in modern society without the use of some type of timepiece. The clock should do more than remind us of the time to awaken, or to sleep; the time for an appointment, or to catch a train; the time to work or the time to play; the time to go to church or even the time when we expect to leave church. (Don't we sometimes look impatiently at our watches when the priest becomes carried away and speaks too long?) The clock should also remind us that with each passing moment, we are a little older. And while we are expecting the next hour to strike, we might never hear it. Who knows when Death will call?

St. Basil, one of the most brilliant of the Fathers of the Church, said, "Time runs, and waits not for him who is late." Our days are rushed. The lazy man is passed by. The use or misuse of time cannot be changed or corrected.

In ancient Thebes there was once a king named Archias, a very ambitious and proud king who had many enemies. His envious enemies finally planned to assassinate him, and arranged the time and place for his murder. As luck would have it, one of King Archias's friends learned of these plans, and immediately wrote a letter to the king giving all the details. He gave the letter to one of the King's slaves with instructions to deliver it without any waste of time, and to say to the King that it contained a very important message. The slave took the letter, located the King at a banquet, and carried out the orders given him. He told the King, "In this letter is a very important message." The King accepted the letter but did not open it. Instead, he put it aside and delivered the famous lines, "The important things, we do tomorrow."

That same night, his enemies carried out the assassination that had been detailed in the letter which the King had not opened. For the King, tomorrow did not come. O stupid and foolish king who told you that you would live until tomorrow? How could you take Time for granted?

So, my friends, it is not advisable for you to commit the same blunder. Do not postpone until tomorrow whatever is important.

Tomorrow may never come. It does not exist. The only thing which is real is the present, and after that, eternity.

 


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