Christmas is nine months away! Well, sort of. The feast of the Annunciation was moved this year from March 25, to today, March 31, since the solemn week of Easter takes precedence over other feasts. So you can go ahead and start the countdown! Less than nine months from now, Jesus will be born! It goes to show how as Catholics we live in cyclical time, not merely linear time. Cyclical time emphasizes the ebb and flow of the seasons, rebirth and death, the constant renewal of the the earth even as our souls and our spiritual lives are undergoing constant renewal. The death of sin and the our rebirth through grace of the sacraments and the continual opportunities the Lord gives us to repent and have the proverbial second chance that is really 77 times 7 chances (as seven is the biblical eternal number, 77 x 7 means no end to forgiveness.
Our Catholic time is not solely linear. It is not the inexorable march of time that leaves no room for backward glances and no room for the past to intrude into our future. Cyclical time emphasizes our history, our traditions, and our present existence. The pagan civilizations of the past lived in purely cyclical time, with attention paid carefully to the cycles of the sun and moon, of the flooding of the Nile, and seasonal changes. Linear time is the time of the progressive scientist. The past is not important, nor is the present. Right now, there is no perfection, only disease and suffering, and in the past there is only ignorance and superstition, but the future holds our salvation. One day, we will find the cure for AIDS, cancer, and heart disease. In the future man will have happiness on earth, free from the blot of suffering. Man is perfectible... in the future. This thinking has lead to the genocidal tendencies of our modern world. Marx saw a Golden Age of utopic living, once the current class systems (and those people enforcing them) were done away with, including members of the middle class, anyone opposing the communists, and Christians. Hitler saw the great Aryan race rising to dominate the world and bring about the Third Age, once the Jews and Poles and Christians were annihilated and wiped off the face of the earth. Those who look for the perfectibility of man and a glorious future in linear time, love humanity but hate man.
Our Catholic faith teaches us to live both linearly and cyclically. The pagan religions valued tradition and ritual, but they also did not see the value of history. Their world was continual dying and being reborn, as the sun rose and set every day. Their world was not pointed towards an end, leading at times to a dullness and lack of initiative. The modernistic view is an eternal progression without a care for past and present. But the Church combines these. We live liturgically, renewing our souls by the repitition of feasts and celebrations, by living in the present and understanding our past. But we also know that the world will come to an end. We know that we are created for another world, and that time is moving closer to that end. Does this mean we live in spiral time? Perhaps.
Think about it.