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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