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Concerning ”Omnipotent,” ”Ancient of Days“; and also concerning ”Eternity“ and ”Time.”
1. Now ‘tis time that our Discourse should celebrate God (Whose Names are many) as “Omnipotent” and “Ancient of Days.” The former title is given Him because He is that All-Powerful Foundation of all things which maintains and embraces the Universe, founding and establishing and compacting it; knitting the whole together in Himself without a rift, producing the Universe out of Himself as out of an all-powerful Root, and attracting all things back into Himself as unto an all-powerful Receptacle, holding them all together as their Omnipotent Foundation, and securing them all in this condition with an all-transcendent bond suffering them not to fail away from Himself, nor (by being removed from out of that perfect Resting Place) to come utterly to destruction. Moreover, the Supreme Godhead is called “Omnipotent” because It is potent over all things, and rules with unalloyed sovranty over the world It governs; and because It is the Object of desire and yearning for all, and casts on all Its voluntary yoke and sweet travail of Divine all-powerful and indestructible Desire for Its Goodness.
2. And “Ancient of Days” is a title given to God because He is the Eternity455455In the Super-Essence each thing has its ultimate and timeless being, of all things and their Time,456456In the Super-Essence each thing has the limits of its duration predetermined. Or else D. means that in the Super-Essence the movement of Time has the impulse which generates it. and is anterior457457Temporal precedence is metaphorically used to express metaphysical precedence. God cannot in the literal sense of the words, temporally precede time. to Days and anterior to Eternity and Time. And the titles “Time,” “Day,” “Season,” and “Eternity” must be applied to Him in a Divine sense, to mean One Who is utterly incapable of all change and movement and, in His eternal motion, remains at rest;458458He transcends both Rest and Motion. and Who is the Cause whence Eternity, Time, and Days are derived. Wherefore in the Sacred Theophanies revealed in mystic Visions He is described as Ancient and yet as Young: the former title signifying that He is the Primal Being, existent from the beginning, and the latter that He grows not old. Or both titles together teach that He goes forth from the Beginning through the entire process of the world unto the End. Or, as the Divine Initiator459459Presumably Hierotheus. tells us, either term implies the Primal Being of God: the term “Ancient” signifying that He is First in point of Time, and the term “Young” that He possesses the Primacy in point of Number, since Unity and the properties of Unity have a primacy over the more advanced numbers.460460He is the Source of all extension both in Time and in Space, Unity underlies all counting (for 2, 3, 4, etc. = twice 1, three times 1, four times 1, etc.). Hence it is the Origin, as it were, of all number. And, being at the beginning of the arithmetical series (as youth is at the beginning of life) it is symbolized (according to D.) by youthfulness.
3. Need is there, methinks, that we understand the sense in which Scripture
speaketh of Time and Eternity. For where Scripture speaks of things as “eternal” it doth not always mean things that are absolutely
Uncreated or verily
Immortal, Invariable, and Immutable (e.g. “Be ye lift up,
ye eternal doors,”461461Ps. xxiv. 7. and suchlike passages). Often it gives the name of “Eternal” to anything very ancient; and sometimes, again, it applies the
to the whole course of earthly Time, inasmuch as it is the property of Eternity
to be ancient and invariable and to measure the whole of Being. The name “Time” it Gives to that changing process which is
shown in birth, death, and
variation. And hence we who are here circumscribed by Time are, saith the
Scripture, destined to share in Eternity when we reach that incorruptible
Eternity which changes not. And sometimes the Scripture declares the glories of
a Temporal Eternity and an Eternal Time, although we understand that in stricter
exactness it describes and reveals Eternity as the home of things that are in
Being; and Time as the home of things that are in Birth.462462We cannot help thinking of Eternity as an Endless Time, as we think of
infinite number as an endless numerical process. But this is wrong. Eternity is
timeless as infinite number is superior to all numerical process. According to
Plato, Time is “incomplete life” and Eternity is “complete life.” Thus Eternity
fulfils Time and yet contradicts it, as infinite number fulfils and contradicts
the properties of finite numbers. If Time be thought of as an infinite series of
finite numbers Eternity is the sum of that series and not its process. But the
name may be applied loosely to the process, though this is generally to be
avoided. According to St. Thomas, Eternity measures Rest, and Time measures
Motion: Eternity is a totum simul and Time is successivum. The difference
between them is not, he says, that Time has a beginning and an end whereas
Eternity has neither, though he admits that each of the particular objects
existing in Time began and will end. (Summa, Pars I. Q. x. Art. iv.) But this
is, he says, not essential to the nature of time: it is only per accidens (ibid.
Art. v.). Cf. Aristotle’s distinction between “unlimited Time” and limited
Time. We must not,
therefore, think of the things which are called Eternal as being simply
co-ordinate with the Everlasting God Who exists before Eternity;463463He alludes to Angels and the perfected souls of men and to their celestial abode.
but, strictly following the venerable Scriptures, we had better interpret the
words “Eternal” and “Temporal” in their proper senses, and regard those things
which to some extent participate in Eternity and to some extent in Time as
standing midway between things in Being and things in Birth.464464St. Thomas speaks of aevum as standing between Eternity and Time
and participating in both. Time, he says, consists in succession, Aevum does not but is capable of it, Eternity does not and is incapable of it
(Summa, Pars I. Q. x. Art. v.). Thus the heavenly bodies, he says, are
changeless in essence, but capable of motion from place to place; and the angels
are changeless in nature, but capable of choice and so of spiritual movement.
Maximus’s note on the present passage explains this to be D.‘s meaning.
There is in each one of us a timeless self. It is spoken of by ail the
Christian Mystics as the root of our being, or as the spark, or the
Synteresis, etc. Our perfection consists in this ultimate reality, which
is each man’s self, shining through his whole being and transforming it. Hence
man is at last lifted on to the eternal plane from that of time. The movements
of his spirit will then be so intense that they will attain a totum simul. We
get a foretaste of this when, in the experience of deep spiritual joy, the
successive parts of Time so coalesce (as it were) that an hour seems like a
moment. Eternity is Rest and Time is Motion. Accelerate the motion in the
individual soul, through the intensification of that soul’s bliss to infinity.
There is now in the soul an infinite motion. But Infinite Motion is above
succession, and therefore is itself a form of repose. Thus Motion has been
changed into Rest, Time into Eternity. Mechanical Time, or dead Time (of
which Aristotle speaks as mere movement or succession) is the Time measured by
the clock; developing or living Time (which is Plato’s “incomplete life”) is
real Time, and this is Aevum, which partakes both of mechanical Time and of
Eternity. The best treatment of the subject is probably to be found in Bergson’s
theory of durée. (Cf. Von Hügel’s Eternal Life.)
The words “eternal,” “everlasting,” etc., being loosely employed, may refer to three different things: (1) endless mechanical Time, i. e. mere endless succession; (2 ) Aevum, or developing and finally perfected living Time; (3) True Timeless Eternity. And God we must celebrate as both Eternity and Time,465465Vide pp. 169 n. 1, 170 n. 1. as the Cause of all Time and Eternity and as the Ancient of Days; as before Time and above Time and producing all the variety of times and seasons; and again, as existing before Eternal Ages, in that He is before466466Vide p. 170, n. 2. Eternity and above Eternity and His Kingdom is the Kingdom of all the Eternal Ages. Amen.
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