One thing I did at the beginning of the lockdowns in 2020 was to stop wearing a watch. I used to be quite fastidious about keeping the exact time, regularly adjusting my watch to precisely align minute and second hands. I have noticed over recent months that the way I engage with time has changed. I am less focused on precision (except for making sure Mass starts on time!), and more reliant on others for letting me know the time. Also, and like everyone else, my mobile phone is always there if needed. Time has morphed for me during these pandemic years – less incremental, more flowing; a letting go of chronological precision, and a taking up of a moving along.

Pope Francis has an odd expression he makes use of every now and then. He says that time is greater than space. What on earth does that mean? Well, when we think of things, they occur within fixed parameters. Think of a tree, for example. It has a fixed reality in space – “there it is,” we say, pointing to it; it’s not somewhere else. The tree occupies a static location in space. But over time, we might notice the changes that occur in it – it sprouts or sheds its leaves according to the seasons; it grows and diminishes over its life span. Because of time, the tree becomes dynamic. For this reason, it is the time of the tree, not the space it occupies, that reveals its living reality. Time is greater than space.

Salvation history reveals to us that God is the God of time, not of space. Creation occurred over time, with God planting the roots of hope in our lives. God did the same with our redemption, re-planting our hope in the time taken for Christ’s life, death and resurrection. And time remains central to our future hopes, as we await the coming again of our Saviour.

This God of time, who brings forth the possibility of our hope for tomorrow, is strongly revealed in this season of Advent we have begun, a word which itself is time oriented in its meaning: the coming of the One who can save us. Today’s readings are full of this reality:

  • See, the days are coming – [says the Lord] – when I am going to fulfil the promise I made. (Jeremiah 33)
  • Make more and more progress in the kind of life that you are meant to live. (1 Thessalonians 3)
  • When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand. (Luke 21)

We believe that God has given us three things that will last beyond time, and bring us through the time of each of our lives – St Paul tells us that they are faith, hope and love. Faith is certainly oriented towards the past: in faith we learn to trust in what God has done, and promised. Love is centred very much in the present: we are to love God and one another now, at this moment and each moment. It is hope that points us to the future we long for: hope is our calling forth, our running ahead, our coming to the goal of our lives in Christ. Faith is our yesterday; love is our today, and hope is our tomorrow.

The God of Advent, the God of coming to be, gives us the time to find hope in the coming of Christ. During this season of Advent, might we learn to trust that there is hope in the God who offers us life in him, just as we prayed at the beginning of our Mass: Grant your faithful, we pray almighty God, the resolve to run forth to meet your Christ. (Collect, 1st Sunday of Advent)