In yesterday’s blog (I Don’t See Ghosts. But God Does) I mentioned eternity and that it was the fullness of time wherein the past present and future were all at once for God. God does not have to wait for things to happen nor does he have to reminisce about the past. It is all before him as one moment.
I would like to say a little more about this. First, I would like to attempt to better define eternity. And then I’d like to ponder some possible implications and see what you think.
“Defining” The Mystery of Eternity – I have put the word “defining” in quotes purposefully since, simply defining eternity is quite impossible. By analogy, what if I were to ask you to “Define the universe and give three examples.” Such a request would be silly since the universe cannot simply be defined. It is just too big to be contained by words. And so it is with eternity. Ultimately eternity is a mystery in that, whatever we can say about it, more remains un-sayable. So, in proposing to “define” eternity I am not arrogantly thinking I can contain the concept in the mere confines of words. But since we need some parameters for our discussion, some definitions, (parameters) really are needed.
What Do we mean by Eternity? Most people misunderstand the word eternity simply to mean “a long, long, time.” But that is not what is meant by the word. When the Greeks coined the word eternity, (Aeon) they meant by it “the fullness of time.” That is to say, Eternity is the past, present and future all being experienced at once.
I cannot tell you what this is like, but I can illustrate it. Look at the clock to the upper right. The time is 1:15 in the afternoon. That means that 10:00 AM is in the past and 6:00 PM is in the future. But consider the dot at the center of the clock and see that, at that spot, 10 AM, 1:15 PM, and 6 PM are all the same, they are equally present to the dot in the center. In fact every possible time that can be registered on the outer edges of the clock is equally present to the center dot. At the center dot there is no substantial difference to any outer edge time indication. There is no future, no past, all is present, all is equally accessible to the center dot. This is eternity and this is where God lives.
God Lives in eternity – We live our life in serial time, on the outer edge of the clock. But God does not. God lives in eternity. God lives in the fullness of time. For God, past, and future are the same as the present. God is not “waiting” for things to happen. All things just are. God is not waiting and wondering if you or I will get to heaven. He is not watching history unfold like a movie. In eternity, 10,000 years ago is just as present as 10,000 years from now. Eternity includes all pasts and futures in the living present.
[If you wish to read more on this you might read Peter Kreeft’s Book Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Heaven (esp. pp. 151-171)].
Scripture hints at God’s eternity in numerous passages. For example,
- But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. (2 Peter 3:8).
- Psalm 139 says, Your eyes foresaw my actions; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be. (Ps 139, 15).
- Psalm 90 says, For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. (Ps 90:4).
- And then there is simply the God’s name: “I AM” In this Name, there is no past, no future, just an eternal now, the present tense.
- Jesus declared to the crowds, “Before Abraham ever was, I AM.” (John 8:58).
So here is the most awesome mystery of time, the fullness of time, eternity. Some implications from this are interesting to ponder.
1. God is not waiting for anything. He did not wait for you or me to be born, he is not waiting for us to die. He is not waiting to judge us. He is not waiting for us to enter heaven (or Hell!). He is not waiting for us to emerge from purgatory. He is not waiting for the end of the world. Everything is accomplished. Everything is done. And yet every thing is also underway. The day of my birth is present to God. They day of my death is present to him. The full sweep of history is before God in one glance, one comprehensive NOW. We may say, “Why is God taking so long to answer my prayer?” The fact is he has already provided. The Lord answers prayers, sooner than right now, faster than immediately.
2. This does not mean that everything is predetermined in such a way as to make our freedom meaningless. That God already knows and and has always known every decision we make does not mean that we do not in fact freely make it. God’s knowledge does not cancel our freedom.
3. At some point we will move to the eternal center with God. It does not seem likely that we will ever comprehend time and things as comprehensively as God. And yet the fact that we move to eternity, to the fullness of time, would suggest that the whole course of our life will somehow, mysteriously be present to us. I say “suggest,” since none of this is perfectly laid out for us to know here. This is speculation based on what eternity seems to be. Since, by definition the past will be present, some how it would seem that the whole of our past life will be present and available to us in heaven. Somehow my high school graduation, my first date 🙂 , my ordination, even this typing session will be present. How and it what manner or mode it is experienced is not clear. Sometimes people ask if their pets will be in heaven. If the past is accessible it would seem that pets somehow are with us there. How and to what degree we would want to go back and “visit” the past is not possible to say. Saying what eternity seems to include is one thing, describing how it is experienced there is something altogether different and beyond the realm of what we can likely know here.
4. Why bother praying? Some my say if everything already is, what difference does prayer make? But this question presumes that God has not always known you would pray and already set forth the answer based on that. For us, time and decisions must unfold. Though God has always known what we would do or not do, we are NOT in that position and thus must decide to pray. That God has always known what we would do is beside the point from our perspective. We must decide to pray and know that God has always known if we would pray and had already acted accordingly.
5. Are the Souls in heaven waiting for anything? – If eternity is the fullness of time and if past and future are contained in a perfect now it would seem they are not waiting. My parents, who have both died are not likely waiting for me to join them since the future is already present to them. They are not waiting for their bodies to rise for in eternity that is accomplished. From our perspective these things are not accomplished and must unfold, but in eternity it would seem that they are already present. Or so it would seem.
Please note that I offer these implications (speculations really) very humbly. Note how often I have used the word “seem.” That is intentional. Eternity is a very deep mystery. We can define it (sort of) but grasping how it is experienced is quite another matter. I’d like to know what you think. Analogies are always appreciated and large doses of humility are necessary. We must remember that we are talking about something we have never experienced. Further we are using mere words to describe what cannot really be reduced to words. Words are necessary, but remember, they are inadequate.
This song says, “God don’t ever change.”
59 Replies to “Eternity is Not A Long Time, it is All Time.”
Said Billy Pilgrim, “I give you the Tralfamadorian greeting: Hello. Farewell. Hello. Farewell. Eternally connected, eternally embracing. Hello. Farewell.”
I enjoyed your post. When I was listening to Archbishop Sheen, he had said that to the understanding of a baby, everything is eternity. Because babes have no accumulated experience to draw on. They have no past experience and know nothing of the future. So as a parent, when you leave the room, he mused that the babe thinks it is for an eternity and cries:)
His story made sense to because time is a construct by which we order and measure experience. It is useful for Gods creatures, but I am not sure it has any real meaning beyond that. I think the ancients assumed time had always existed such that even the gods were contained therein, until St Augustine(i think) suggested God created time and not just the universe. A pretty revolutionary thought.
God created time and not just the universe
Time is nothing more than a measurement of changes in space (the universe) divided by the rate of change ( t = d / v ). Without space, there is no time. Space and time go hand-in-hand. So for God to create the universe is necessarily for God to also “create time.”
That just shows how far ahead of his time St. Augustine was. Thanks to Relativity the relationship between time and space became a well founded theory. But this was in the last few generations. The ancients never thought time and space were related. If they ever wrote about the god(s) creating the universe, they never believed it included time. So when it is said that God created the universe, it is necessary for God to also create time. I would agree that this is how it is understood today. (Keep in mind the equation doesnt hold for the beginning of the universe as all the laws of physics break down) But in any case, what is change in space without experience? If there is no past experience, then there is no basis to compare and therefore no observable change. That is why I think of it as a man-made construct. Our experiences with time say more about us then they do about what we observe.
According to special relativity, time is not a forward motion but is eternity. I find this interesting. It seems science has found evidence for eternity.
Also, I think many people confuse God’s eternity for our time, so they ask why we must pray. But we are not in eternity, we still have time. And than people ask why God created people He knew would go to Hell. But the fact is, we all must live our lives – saints and reprobates – and again time is ours, not eternity.
Perhaps the most frightening part of eternity is its endlessness. Saints will be happy for eternity and reprobates will be sad for eternity. It’s terrifying to even think that God won’t get to make certain souls happy and that those souls won’t get to enjoy happiness for eternity. This should make us pray all the more.
I would be wary of using relativity to discuss anything. The reason being is that it may soon be discredited if they find that the speed of light is not in fact constant.
I had not heard that this was the case. Where can I read more.
My favorite definition of eternity is “The Forever Now.” We run into this question mostly on two occasions.
The first is when we have a Intergeneratioal Healing Mass, as we will this Wednesday night. Well meaning people always come out of the woodwork asking how God can heal past generations. We have to remind them as you did us that God knows no time, and can effect healing anywhere.
The second is when we discuss the union of body and soul after death. This is a discussion of time viz-a-viz eternity. As I understand it time has a beginning and an end, and the reunion of body and soul occurs at the end of time. This has to be the case because all but two bodies are still in the ground and the souls of the deceased are elsewhere.
Yes that is the case for us. But my point is that For God it is not. It is already it is not yet. Both are present to God. Or such would seem the case if we understand eternity
The real problem is that eternity is inconceivable: a term without meaning. Saying that it is all time places it in a present that never becomes past or future. We have no experience of such a state and the definition is meaningless. Like most metaphysical and religious concepts, it can only be described negatively, as what it is not, which is not to describe it at all. I can say that an apple is not a drumstick and that brings me no closer to knowing what an apple is. Without an affirmation, we have only negative premises, which cannot lead to knowledge of a thing or condition. Almost all descriptions of God are likewise negations: infinite (not finite); eternal (not in time), etc. Even Aquinas admits that we cannot know what God is. Yet, we are supposed to base our lives on that which we cannot know; on the hope that the negation of what we do know will be better than our actual knowledge. I find this perplexing, to say the least, and often wonder if religion makes sense.
Well I think you are a bit too radical in your assertions here. Words like inconceivabale, meaningless, “no experience” , “only be described negatively” “without an affirmation.” and so forth…..We CAN know what an apple is. It is not preuly negation (it is not a drumstick) We can have some expereince of God and the eternal. Aquinas indicates that we cannot comprehensively know God in his essence but that does mean we cannot know anything. Otherwise, why would God undertake revelation.
I think it is the radicality of your claims that makes you wonder if religion makes any sense. The Catholic faith is not so sweeping in its notion of negation as you seem to present here.
Dear Msgr. Thank you for your thoughtful reply, but radicality is what gets at the root of a problem, and truth is radical. To the extent that God “reveals” himself, that revelation tends to be mysterious, and metaphorical. And of course, there is the question of the source of revelation, which always involves granting credibility to an individual claim to Divine transmission. The Pope says that the supernatural impulse, even when it is genuine, is ‘filtered” by the culture and personality of the one who receives and delivers it to us. He said this of the Fatima seers, but it would seem to be a general principle. So, again, I ask, what can we really know about God, or eternity? And if the supernatural impulse is filtered through the individual who receives it, is it not again filtered by the one who receives what has been received, etc.? Is not the pope simultaneously and incoherently affirming the principle of private judgment and the objective nature of revelation, which the Church claims to interpret with exclusive authority? I do not wish to be controversial, but I struggle to understand. Fides quaerens intellectus, or perhaps, Intellectus quaerens fides. Are the two mutually exclusive?
Here too I think you are absolutizing what the Pope says. That things are filtered does not mean that there is no knowledge contained. To say that culture and person influence the process can be true but it is not all that is operative. The actual truth of the revelation is too.
Aquinas admits that we cannot know what God is, he means the mystery of the Holy Trinity, yet it is very CLEAR to me, who the Son of God is, don;t you? He is Jesus Christ the Divine Lord, the second person of the Holy Trinity, please read you Holy Bible, you sound like someone sitting in a park looking up into the sky comtemplating on Darwin evolution theory and bunch of other BS.
Brings to mind “deja vu”, where one has been in a particular place with particular people having an experience or conversation that in one brief instant you KNOW you’ve already had, yet in reality, you know you haven’t until that moment, or “maybe” you have.
Yes a strange expereince deja vu is.
Yes a strange expereince deja vu is.
Yes! If we are in eternity where the past and future are one then deja vu would make perfect sense, now wouldn’t it?
Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end; we know a circle is made up of dots with no beginning or end, but Jesus points to a dot on the circle and calls it the beginning and the end; as he says “behold I make all things new”, and again a “new heaven and a new earth”… so eternity is ever changing but always the same. Jesus also says, “heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” and because he says this he is the Eternal Father, the Lord of the Universe.
Interesting post. Will there not be a time, though, when eternity and our serial time intersect? Will not the Last Judgement be a discrete point in time?
Not sure I understand you first question.
As the the second, it surely will be a discrete moment in time, as is every moment discrete. But I think the Last Judgment has always been present to God.
Since God is the Alpha and the Omega, I like to think that Eternity is an attribute of God Himself, in other word Eternity is because God is. When he told Moses “I AM” he is also stating a form of eternity (I am always) I am not in the past nor in the future, I am now…these are only my thoughts… Since Eternity is because of God’s existing he is able to change what has been into what is in the now of his eternity, so our sins will be made white as snow, so from these I don’t think we will be able to revisit our sins of the past. However all that God created is in that now so His entire creation is there NOW, yes pets and everything that is good, including smoked salmon…
Would you say however that we will experience eternity since you say it is an attribute of God?
And he laid his right hand upon me, saying: Fear not. I am the First and the Last, 18 And alive, and was dead, and behold I am living for ever and ever, and have the keys of death and of hell.
In this statement God is making us aware that he can change eternity to an end,and he can change eternity to a new begining.He is holding the keys of both hell and death which means that now he and only he can medle with and change both hell and death,because he overcame both,so who ever goes for eternity in hell it is eternity within our term but for God there is no eternity,since he holds the keys of hell he can open and close hell as he feels fit for his pleasure.
Hmm… I don’t doubt God could chage eternity. Yet my point is that the change was always present to him.
Does God knows everything before hand (infallibility) ? or Does God Knows every possible permutation of a decision / action and their consequences we may take? The later view would still allow us to be free
A great hard book I read about it is The Dilemma of Freedom and Foreknowledge by Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski
Thomas would argue GOd knows every potentiality
Your article reminds me of the Transfiguration when Peter, James and John saw Moses and Elijah in Heaven speaking with Jesus. Those two prophets were not yet redeemed since Jesus has not died and ascended yet and still they were already in Heaven.
You can add the Immaculate Conception to that as well, Luis.
The secrets of God in creation is in Genisis,how God became creation and how creation became individualized,scentient,personified and egotistical and ambitious in it’s delusion. This was the fallen angel and the kingdom of satan. Time and space, relativity , suffering and delusion. Substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not yet seen. God set the stage for a passion play for His Being. This is my only begotten Son in whom I am well pleased. It was through this Life, sacrifice and resurrection, that the mysteries of eternal Life are revealed daily through the individual suffering of those who follow in His teachings. I and My Father are one. God is not waiting, He is ever presentand fulfilled. Nothingis predetermined, it evolves toward realization. Godscenter is everywhere and his circumference is nowhere. Prayer is the consciousness of God.Souls are relative concepts of omniscience.Soulswait inthe after life for those they leave behind to show them the way and the life. We are surrounded by those who have gone before us and yetit is only One and the same. Sin is delusion and Grace is revelation and politics and religionare apples and oranges.Life on earth is not simply Catholic. It’s much more acute than that.
OK Robert, but I feel like I’ve got a little dixie cup and I’m trying to get a cup of water from the gushing fure hydrant of what you say. It is difficult to graps your central point though I think I understand a few of the details.
Sorry. Hey I went to confession last Saturday like I said I would and told Father Foley at St. Jude’s what I had said and was sorry but still felt that the Catholic Church needs to stay out of politics. Imagine that. I go to Church named after the saint for lost causes.Love ya man!
Msgr. Fantastic, geometeric illustration (that clock thing). I paused when you said that because the dead (using your parents as a personal illustration) are in eternity, they experience the “comprehensive NOW” of God and thereby ‘the resurrection of the dead.’ I know you said you were being speculative, but what does/ would St. Paul mean (Rom 8) then by “the redemption of the body” and the in-corporeal (sp?) pains that all creation groans for? To me, it seems that the dead experience some sense of time until the eschaton, albeit different. Is this memory? I don’t know. Still thinking about about it. I’d love to hear your thoughts! Blessings.
Paul says that creation is groaning but that would be in this temporal order. As the the fact that we too are groaning depned a lot on who is meant by “we” Does we refer to us here in this temporal order or to all the dead in heaven as well. It seems to me that the contexts of Paul’s remarks are more supportive of the notion that we refers to us who are here. However, I would surely not be dismissive of your notion either that the dead expereince some sense of chronological time till the eschaton even if God does not.
Interesting. Thanks for the comments. And thanks for stimulating us toward wonder. Our God is an Awesome God.
I’m not to sure one wants to only tie time to the creation of space. For instance does one really want to say that the angels always existed outside of time? That would be to suppose that they never changed, and yet we know that some fell from heaven in a great battle. This spiritual change is nevertheless a significant change that could possibly be seen as time, if time is truly just a measurement of change. You could say that from the moment that the angels were created to the point in which they made that first and final choice they existed in time. After which there was no time till the creation of the physical universe, since the angels would have either been in Heaven or Hell. The main reason why I consider angels to have existed in time is because they are creatures. I think it is only logical that only God can totally exist outside of time as the Alpha and Omega. Thus, one may need to reconsider one’s understanding of time to include more than just physical changes.
Yes, we certainly are left to speculate here about of lot of things. Another reminder that this is all rather beyond our true ability to comprehend. I often think that this life is like going through a long and rather dark tunnel where we see so little. And that the next life will be like coming out of that tunnel and being amazed at the height of the sky, the maginificence of light, the beauty and diversity of creation and so forth. Surely heaven and the vision we have there will be like this multiplied by 10 Billion. For now we see darkly as in a mirror but then face to face, and we shall know, even as we are known.
I was very moved by your article, in parts I felt frozen in awe and marvel at God’s wonders which we take for granted. I give thanks to him for your vocation and helping us see an atom of His beauty and order through your eloquence and grace. This evening I will say a Rosary in Thanksgiving to Our Blessed Lady for your intentions.
God reward you without ceasing. I Cherish and Value your Ministry. The world is a better place for it.
from London, England
PS. My husband John thinks your Blog is exceptional too.
You have, Msgr. Pope and Anne, given a beautiful and suitable conclusion to the discussion in your final comments of May 18th. I hesitate, therefore, to continue the discussion by making a subsequent comment of my own. I believe, however, that it is sufficiently important to make a clarification and correction to the discussion to warrant doing so; for the issues raised in both the article and the comments on it are significant and should be understood as fully as possible.
Time is, as Dhanagom suggests, the measure of motion or change (see Aristotle’s Physics), notwithstanding the claims of modern theories to the contrary. Eternity is the absence of time (and not, properly speaking, “all time”) arising from an absence of change; for there is no measurement, if the thing to be measured (i.e., change) does not exist (see Boethius, On the Consolation of Philosophy, Bk. V). Temporality and eternity, then, refer to modes of existence, i.e., to mutable and immutable existence, respectively. Human beings are temporal because they are subject to change. God is eternal, as Aquinas notes, because He is immutable or unchanging (see Summa theologiae Ia, q. 10, a. 2).
God alone is truly eternal, as distinct from perpetual, since God alone is unchangeable. In what sense, then, can the blessed be said to have eternal life? They do not have it in the sense that they themselves become immutable and, therefore, eternal and equal to God (see Summa theologiae, Ia, q. 12, a.7 & IIIa, q. 3, a. 8 ad 2um). Grace perfects and elevates nature. It does not destroy it. Human beings remain changeable, even as disembodied spirits in Heaven. The blessed have eternal life in a secondary sense; namely, through a limited participation in the divine nature by immediate contemplation of God (see CCC, Paras. 1023-1029). This contemplation, called the beatific vision, is the finite and, therefore, partial conception in the human intellect of the infinite form or essence of God Himself ( See CCC, Para. 1028 and Summa theologiæ, Ia, q. 12, a. 1 ; Ia, q. 12, a. 7; Ia, q. 12, a. 9; & IaII, q. 5, a. 1). Now the intellect, as Aristotle explains and Aquinas confirms, becomes the very idea or thought it conceives (De Anima, iii.4 (429b 10-23) and Summa theologiæ, Ia, q. 79, a. 2). Man, therefore, becomes God-like, within the limits of his nature perfected and elevated by grace, since He conceives, to a limited extent, the very essence of God in the beatific vision (see Summa theologiæ, Ia, q. 12, a. 2 & 4). Jesus states, partly for this reason, in His prayer in John 17 that eternal life is “know[ing]” the “only true God and Jesus Christ,” God, the Son, incarnate (John 17:3. See Summa theologiæ, IaII, q. 3, a. 4, sed contra; cf. 1 John 3:2).
How is it that man changes in heaven? If man, knowing the beatific vision is in a true sense full to the limit of his nature united with God, and that this will never be changed or taken away from him, how does he change in heaven. If man although, not infinite or per se immutable, comes to a state in which nothing does change, has he not truly entered eternity? Now I make this distinction for the spirituality/soul of man in heaven, with our heavenly bodies we may be able to physically change and move as if fitting for our corporial bodies, but we have spiritually entered eternity. In life our souls can only do one of two things, grow closer to God or further apart, there is never a stationary moment for our souls in relation to God. But in heaven we will achieve our final rest and come to that place which we were predestined to go to from all of time. Our souls will no longer actually change, although we will still have a free will (hehe, just throughing a mind bending twist into the whole lot!)
Note that I wrote that “human beings remain changeable,” and not that human beings actually change, “even as disembodied spirits in Heaven.” To be changeable in some respect is to have the potentiality to become or possess something that one is not already or does not already have (see Aristotle, Physics). To be unchangeable in some respect is to have the actuality already of being or possessing something and, therefore, unable to become or begin to possess it (op. cit.). Now God is wholly unchangeable or immutable because He is pure actuality, i.e., He has no potentiality whatever in any respect (see Summa theologiae, Ia, q. 9, a. 1). Consequently, He is truly eternal. All creatures, however, even those united to God through the beatific vision, have potentiality; for they have the potentiality at least of non-existence, since their being or existence is not part of their very essence or nature, even when perfected, as it is in the case of God (see Summa theologiae, Ia, q. 3, a. 4 & Ia, q. 9, a. 2). They remain, therefore, temporal.
The disembodied spirits in Heaven, then, do not “truly enter.. [into] eternity.” They are fully actualized or “achieve” their “final rest,” as you put it, Dhanagom, with respect to their human souls (see Summa theologiae IaIIae, q. 3, a. 8) (but not yet with respect to their bodies), but they do not thereby become actualized in every respect. Man does, nonetheless, enter eternity in a secondary, incomplete sense, as I have noted. The blessed, as you indicate, Dhanagom, contemplate perpetually the unchanging essence of God in the beatific vision; and this contemplation allows them to share, to a limited extent, in the divine rest and to be God-like (see Summa theologiae, Ia, q.12, a. 10).
We must remember that we died on the cross with Christ two thousand years ago, and it is no longer “I” that lives but Christ in me. Christ is our new life, and he never changes. He overcame death and the world and now that same Spirit is our new life. We as Christians never change because Christ never changes. What does change is our understanding of who we really are. As we look into the mirror of God’s Holy Word we behold the Glory of God. Who do you see when you look into a mirror? You see your self. We are actually seeing the Glory of God inside us, which is Jesus Christ. If and when we turn away from this mirror we forget what manner of man we truly are.
I apologize for the presence of the smiley face in my preceding comment. It was unintended. Please read article eight in place of the face.
Not too sure you can go as far as you claim and say that only that which is immutable by nature is the only thing that can exist in eternity, and by this I mean not merely to share by contemplation alone which of course I grant. True God eternally exists because of His nature, but can we not extend it if we speak of immutability as an accident belonging to a creature (in this case the beatified). I’m sure peregrinus knows or would agree, but for the sake of clarity: that even our bodies share in this immutability (wont age, decay, etc.) even though they can physically move. Thus, truly possessing the accident of immutability, since in actuality our souls will not change at all and our bodies will at least suffer no decay, hence don’t we fall into a second definition of eternity: having no measurement of change? I don’t think to enter into eternity one has to prove absolute immutability but merely that one will not actually suffer change in matter or essence. Since, God has willed us eternal souls, I do not see it as our essence but still as an actuality that we shall never change in heaven, and thus shall truly enter eternity. Does Aristotle or Thomas say that only things immutable by nature are eternal? Did they contemplate the eternal soul with this in mind? I think rather they said in the positive that an immutable thing is eternal, and that God was immutable, finding in Him pure actuality and no potency in nature. This does not exclude things from the genre of eternal though, it just posits one absolute: God IS and therefore eternal.
Aquinas does consider your question, Dhanagom, and gives the same answer that I have given; or I should say that I have given the same answer as he gives, for I am his student in this matter. He admits, as do I, that the disembodied souls of the blessed do, in a sense, “share in the eternity [aeternitatem participant]” of God, since they “receive immutability from Him [ab ipso immutabilitatem percipiunt]” in respect to the operation [secundum operationem]”of their intellects (Summa theologiae, Ia, q. 10, a. 3). He maintains, nonetheless, that “eternity truly and properly called is in God alone [aeternitas vere et proprie in solo Deo est];” for “God alone is altogether immutable [solus autem Deus est omnino immutabilis]” (op. Cit.). One must, then, according to Aquinas, be altogether or, as you put it, Dhanagom, “absolutely immutable” to be truly eternal.
There is a great difference between being unable to change, i.e., being truly or altogether immutable, and being able to change yet not changing, i.e., being immutable only in some respect and in a secondary sense. The first quality belongs to one’s mode of existence, i.e., to one’s very nature, as I have explained, and the second to one’s condition, i.e., as an accidental attribute. Disembodied spirits can, then, as you suggest, Dhanagom, possess immutability as an accidental attribute of their intellects; and they share in eternal life in this respect. They do not, however, thereby become eternal in respect to their nature, which remains human and temporal. They do not, then, become eternal in the full and proper sense.
Note that resurrected human bodies will share in incorruptibility but will not be immutable (see I Cor. 15:51-54 & CCC, Para.s. 997-1000; Summa theologiae, suppl., q. 82).
Note further that I will not have access to a computer during the entire weekend (i.e., May 22-23).
Jesus being true man true God, seems to throw a monkey wrench into the view that having a body susceptible of change necessarily excludes one from being eternal.
I enjoyed this discussion very much. But please just let me add something off subject, which was a gospel passage from Ascension Thursday, when the disciples saw Jesus “they worshiped him and doubted.” It’s nice to know I’m not the only dim bulb in the flock.
Jesus is not eternal in his human nature.
It’s hard to see how existence in Heaven (or in Hell) would be consistent with ordinary human consciousness, which cannot perceive things except temporally. So whatever consciousness the saved and the damned have, it’s not like our own.
The consciousness the blessed and damned have is unlike our own, especially before the resurrection of their bodies; yet it remains the consciousness of temporal creatures, notwithstanding the fact that the blessed share, in a sense, in the eternal rest of God, as I have explained above.
I’m late or not, having just now (approximately 45ish minutes ago) seen this.
The time on my clock when I first saw this was almost identical to your clock face here. I had a wonderful moment of synchronicity until you ruined it for me, Monsignor Pope! I understand these things happen though, so it’s okay.
You said in one of your replies, “Hmm… I don’t doubt God could chage eternity. Yet my point is that the change was always present to him.” What do you mean by, “always present to him”? I’m reading it as, available. Am I way off base in understanding it that way?
By the way, you have the most wonderful sense of humor. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. Maybe it’s just me, but people seem to be, well you know, really uptight, these days.
Warm fuzzies to you!
Thanks. To say that all time is present to God means that my life 20 years from now us just as accessible, just as before him as my life twenty years ago. God is not waiting for something to happen. Nothing was, nothing will be….it all just “is” to God.
Now, I am either really late, really early or just on time to this discussion – perhaps all 3?
For some time now I have thought of time as circular with the beginning and end of creation as the same point on the circle with God and all heavenly beings as outside of time and able to see all at once. So I can very much relate to the clock analogy. I think we can see a dim shadow of how we will go from being time bound to the eternal now by looking at the example of near death experiences and near drownings where people describe their entire life flashing before their eyes. I think it is the transition (in a tunnel rushing toward the light) where our linear time and experience becomes consolidated into the eternal now.
Just came over your article. When I heard the Holy Spirit tell me that Eternity never passes, I was in question to the saying many preachers use when they say “In eternity past”. Well, again, the Holy Spirit spoke to me and let me know that, Eternity never passes, and if eternity passes, then God Himself would pass. But God dwells in Eternity and Eternity is always. We get side tracked because we are only use to experiencing, TIME. We do not know how it feels to experience eternity, unless we relate it to when we go to sleep at night, not aware of the time, for our minds are in a state of unconsciousness and we are in the state of unawareness. With God always is there and time have no affect on eternity. Eternity will affect time and time will cease to be and Eternity will always be. Or will be be in Eternity? Thanks.
Great article. You expressed my thoughts entirely. Although you did not address the issue your conclusions would lead us to believe that heaven and hell must be states of mind, rather than specific places. You mention that eternity is a subject beyond our understanding, yet, I must disagree. From your article and the comments that followed would indicate to me that eternity can be understood. Perhaps not entirely, but sufficiently enough to cause us to praise and honor the God we treasure and love in our heart and mind. That’s enough for me now and will be enough for me when my incarnate state comes to an end as well. Again, great article. It saddens me that very few are interested in the subject of eternity. I would love to locate a forum where I could learn more about the subject. Thanks for your posting the article online for others to be challenged. I think it is a great and wonderful thing that the Lord gave us a mind. It is a shame that very few take the time to exercise it to the Lord’s intended purpose. I can’t wait until I lose this “body of death” and experience the Lord in all His glory and might. May I ask you if you come to your conclusions from the writings of Meister Eckhart? I think he was “right-on” when it came to spiritual things. It was a shame that his name was dishonored by his being excommunicated. I read all I can get my hands on of his writings. Thanks again.
No, I think you are reading a lot into the article. I do not think of Heaven or Hell merely as states of mind, and I have not read Eckhart. That said, I am glad you liked the article. The insights are more broadly philosophical, rooting the reflection in the concept of Aeon and what the ancients meant by it, namely the fullness of time.
This was a fabulous read. Thank you. It’s very interesting to see different perspectives on eternity. The thing that I am pondering the most from these thoughts is that when we get to eternity the past, present, and future all exist. Therefore we are all there with our loved ones as we speak. That really messes with the mind. I’m certain that we will understand many many things when we get there that we had no way of comprehending in the earthy realm.
Very good info, I believe when someone comes to Jesus they are given eternal life right then and there, as the Apostle John tells us, “that we have eternal life” Being able to experience this new life requires faith in the Word of God. Most Christians know that we have been raised up and are now sitting in heavenly places in Christ, but very very few really believe it. They think it is a future event in this physical world in which it is, but it is also something that has already happened in God’s eternal Kingdom. We are also told to not walk according to the curse of this world in which we had no choice until we learned through the gospel that God saved us before the world ever began. Jesus Christ destroyed death by bringing life and immortality to light through the good news. Information is an absolute necessity to experiencing this new life. If we don’t know or believe it it does us no good to have it.
Time is simply another form of God’s mercy upon mankind. Without it as soon as man would sin God’s judgement would have come down immediately causing no one to ever saved. If Jesus is the alpha, and omega, the beginning and the end, then every thing found between a beginning and a end is time. In the end time will be no more. Once time is gone then the beginning and the end merge together as one because they are exactly the same thing. God calls the end from the beginning, and he finished all of his work in the beginning
The only difference between the end and the beginning is one is already finished and completed while the other is being pushed towards an end or conclusion. Since every born again Christian is living in two different worlds at the same time we can see things from God’s perspective and also from a time based perspective in seeing prophecy being fulfilled right before our eyes. As scripture tells us that we should not be looking at the things seen, but at the things not seen which are eternal.
Dear Monsignor Pope, great clock analogy – God is the Center! Serve the Center!
As an aside, not being greatly familiar with Catholicism – where it may be well known and many times pointed out – I just noticed that Msgr. is also an abbreviation for the word “messenger”, which you are God’s messenger.
To comment without using difficult words:
If we LOVE GOD, with ALL our being – we feel our being is secondary (mundane example: a mother ignores personal danger to protect her child) – then, to know simply that GOD or JESUS GOES ON (lives in eternity), is enough to fill our hearts overflowing and give us full satisfaction, with zero thought of our own future. Our gaze is only fixed on God and nothing else.
But I can’t claim that level of devotion. I am wretched and fallen it’s true – I’m not just saying it poetically. I only weep and pray for God’s and Jesus’ mercy, because even though only eating plants, I kill to maintain my existence in this body.
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