Lumen – Time and History


In the second of our posts relating to Lumen, we are focusing, with the help of the CTS booklet, on history and time. It may seem like an odd or remote subject, but from the understanding of it, comes almost everything else.

Of course, Catholicism was not the first religion to propose a linear time line. Thanks to the Jewish faith, an understanding that God was, before history, already existed.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was a formless void, there was darkness over the deep, and God’s spirit hovered over the water.” (Genesis 1:1-2)

The Greeks too, had given us what we now call ‘History’ through the likes of Herodotus and others, so why has the Church been so important?

Lumen’s writers offer this explanation:

“The Incarnation has shaped our understanding of time on the cosmic scale. Many ancient societies regarded time as cyclical, repeating eternally like the cycles of the stars. From this fatalistic perspective, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:10). By contrast, as Fr Stanley Jaki (d. 2009) has argued, the Incarnation breaks this dreary circle, and time is now being ‘folded in’ towards a conclusion.”

Holiness takes time

They go on:

“The faith holds that holiness consists in friendship with God. Friendship, however, is usually cultivated over time and the literary genre most suitable for knowing a person (as opposed to a set of instructions) is the narrative genre, as in the Gospels. Hence Christians have had a strong sense of the importance of narrative history from apostolic times.”

Remembering God’s work

Clearly, it has also taken time for the Church to understand her faith and to develop an tools for comprehending history. Think, for example, of the questions that must have been asked when they realised that Christ’s second coming was not imminent, as many had thought.

But it is obvious that keeping a record of the grace of God was in the mindset of the first Christians.

“In c. 180 AD, St Irenaeus listed the bishops of Rome in unbroken succession from the time of Peter and Paul.

“Eusebius of Ceasarea (d. 339), the ‘Father of Church History’, used a narrative genre for his Ecclesiastical History. He also established the popularity of the chronicle.”

There were many others, including St Bede, who is called the ‘Father of English history.’

But here is, perhaps the most famous contribution of all:

“The Gregorian Calendar (1582), named after Pope Gregory XIII and now the principal calendar of the world. The faith has also provided a central, fixed reference point for time, dividing history into BC (before Christ) and AD (in the year of the Lord).”

Extracts taken from LUMEN -The Catholic Gift to Civilisation by Fr Andrew Pinsent, Fr Marcus Holden

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7 comments on “Lumen – Time and History

  1. Great news- the CTS blog. I look forward to following you. I use Evangellium all the time, for myself and my children. I look forward to buying this one.

  2. Sounds like a very helpful book. I second Mr Leonardi’s wish that it were easier to get CTS materials here in the USA. I still have a couple of booklets I bought as a young graduate student in London, over a quarter century ago …

    The new blog will be a great resource.

  3. Lumen sounds a very good book and one which I shall order in the next week. If it anything like Evangelium it will be good indeed. I teach in Catholic schools and Evangelium is an excellent resource. Well done on both counts.

  4. I have just received Lumen and am looking forward to reading through it. I’m so glad to have something now that will help me answer all those awkward questions people are always asking!

  5. This booklet sounds very interesting and not at all odd!

  6. It looks like a wonderful book, in keeping with the quality of the authors’ previous two volumes, Credo and Apologia. I do wish it were easier to obtain these books in the States. FYI, I wrote a post promoting your new blog on my site:

    Congratulations, and welcome to “St. Blog’s.”

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