Summary: We need to spend time--chronos time--preparing ourselves and engaging in Kairos--God's time.
Vigil of Christmas 2012
Gaudium et Spes
Kairos and Chronos
Baruch Adonai Elohim Israel. Thus begins almost every Hebrew prayer to the Lord, the God of Israel, and so began the first words of the prayer Zechariah spoke at his son’s birth. These were words of thanksgiving and praise offered by a man who had summed up all the thousands of year’s of Israel’s defiance of God’s will nine months earlier by not believing the message of the angel Gabriel. He had paid for his defiance by nine months of silence, having to daily endure the scolding of his wife, who probably said, “how, again, did you answer that angel?” Likewise, Israel, whose name means “God-fighter,” had endured hundreds of years of prophetic silence because of their disobedience. But because of one woman’s obedience, one woman’s “be it done to me according to Thy word,” the long prophetic drought was about to end with the obedient life of John the Baptist, and the obedient sacrifice of Jesus, God’s Son. The time of God’s visitation had come. The time of God’s dwelling among us has come.
The Bible uses two words that we translate “time.” The first is chronos, or what we would call “clock time.” A great religious friend of mine calls chronos God’s invention to keep everything from happening at once. It is measured in seconds and the schedules that come from chronos make our life doable, but hectic. Chronos is radically secular, and often keeps us from paying attention to God.
Kairos, on the other hand, is God’s time, kingdom-of-God time. It is the time zone that God and the saints and angels live in. In a sense, it is God’s invention to keep everything important happening at once. And what is important in heaven is doing God’s will, particularly right praise of God, that which distinguishes us from other animate material beings. The Apocalypse speaks of the action in heaven as a kind of super-Mass, with heavenly chant, heavenly actions like casting down our crowns, all centered on the Lamb who was slain but is living, Jesus.
The Council Fathers write of this mystery with a broad pen: He Who is "the image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15),(21) is Himself the perfect man. To the sons of Adam He restores the divine likeness which had been disfigured from the first sin onward. Since human nature as He assumed it was not annulled,(22) by that very fact it has been raised up to a divine dignity in our respect too. For by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man. He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice(23) and loved with a human heart. Born of the Virgin Mary, He has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin.(24)
1. As an innocent lamb He merited for us life by the free shedding of His own blood. In Him God reconciled us(25) to Himself and among ourselves; from bondage to the devil and sin He delivered us, so that each one of us can say with the Apostle: The Son of God "loved me and gave Himself up for me" (Gal. 2:20). By suffering for us He not only provided us with an example for our imitation,(26) He blazed a trail, and if we follow it, life and death are made holy and take on a new meaning.
The Christian man, conformed to the likeness of that Son Who is the firstborn of many brothers,(27) received "the first-fruits of the Spirit" (Rom. 8:23) by which he becomes capable of discharging the new law of love.(28) Through this Spirit, who is "the pledge of our inheritance" (Eph. 1:14), the whole man is renewed from within, even to the achievement of "the redemption of the body" (Rom. 8:23): "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the death dwells in you, then he who raised Jesus Christ from the dead will also bring to life your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who dwells in you" (Rom. 8:11).(29) Pressing upon the Christian to be sure, are the need and the duty to battle against evil through manifold tribulations and even to suffer death. But, linked with the paschal mystery and patterned on the dying Christ, he will hasten forward to resurrection in the strength which comes from hope.(30)
Kairos is not just some pie-in-the-sky notion we’ll experience after death. Yes, the fullness of that experience is in the Resurrection. But we can get glimpses of kairos every time we pray, every time we celebrate Liturgy. It requires putting away from our minds and hearts everything that gets in our way, everything of chronos. The chanted Divine Office does that for me; a truly prayerful Mass, with time for silent prayer, is also a great time of kairos. Some find it in their daily Rosary. Once I found it while prayerfully mowing my lawn. It inspires, energizes, connects us with the heavenly realities. Give it a try every day; God’s waiting, and he doesn’t own a watch.