Has anyone noticed lately that the sun is setting lower in the sky, or that the duration of our daylight is slowly shrinking? Could it be that summer is slipping away and coming closer to an end? Say it ain’t so! To all of the Doubting Thomases among us, please be advised of two indisputable, though unofficial signs of summer’s end: the beginning of school and Labor Day.
It is often said that the older we get, time seems to go faster. That’s one way to explain it, but I have a different theory: Time is constant, and as we get older we get slower. Therefore, rather than admitting we are slower, we say that time is going faster. Nevertheless, Grouch Marx had a different take on time when he said, “Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.”
Kidding aside, the nature of time has occupied great minds from antiquity to modernity. For example, in Einstein’s theory of relativity space and time are linked together, so the faster you travel the slower you experience time. Scientists have done experiments to show that this is in fact true. But, the speed at which one would need to travel to find the fountain of youth is beyond the grasp of my non-physicist brain…light years.
On the other hand, from a philosophical and theological perspective, St. Augustine included a treatise on the nature of time in Book XI of his classic work Confessions. He begins with the fact that time is a measure of change. Consider the earth in its revolution around the sun, the ever-changing course of a river, or even grandpa’s gray hair.
Conversely, the Apostle James writes: God is the “Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change”. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that God is “beyond space and time.” And so, God is not subject to time or change, being eternal not in terms of duration, but of timelessness.
It is perhaps difficult to imagine, as Augustine proposed, that the beginning of the created world was the beginning of time itself. The pagans of the ancient world mocked Christians with the question, “What was God doing during the infinite ages before the world was created?” But, Augustine’s response was that there were no “infinite ages” before the world was created, since there was no time. Therefore, it makes no sense to talk about a time before creation.
Ah! But, on terra firma we mere mortals are subject to the dimension of time. As it turns out, we’re all clock punchin’, birthday cake eating, New Year’s celebrating creatures…that also come with expiration dates. Time then is so very, very precious. If we lose a home to a fire, it can be rebuilt. If the market crashes and our bank accounts wane, they can recover. But, time once spent cannot be restored. Therefore, we look to the wisdom of St. Paul.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:15-16