Bis ich dich nach dieser Zeit lob und lieb in Ewigkeit158 Time and Eternity

"Nur ein Hauch trennt Zeit von Ewigkeit"159—in spite of, or perhaps precisely because of this proximity, the relationship of time to eternity is not entirely simple to describe. One cannot find dogmatically sound definitions of time and eternity and of the relationship of the two to each other in the hymns analyzed; and yet, both concepts are used in a variety of ways. Particularly in the German and Swedish hymns, the terms time and eternity occur in both singular and plural forms, but the plural of eternity occurs much less frequently. In the Swedish hymnbook, it is largely limited to Psalms,160 while in the EG, it occurs only for the purpose of rhyming.161 Factors such as tune and rhyme will often have influenced the selection of singular and plural more than theological reflection. Furthermore, the meaning appears to become more blurred in the plural forms. Thus, at least in the translations of the Te Deum from the fourth century, one can find an example in which, in the same hymn, the meaning of always is conveyed once in the same passage with "zu allen Zeiten" (for all times) and, another time, with "durch alle Ewigkeiten" (through all eternities).162 In the singular, however, the difference in meaning between time and eternity is guaranteed. As I will show, eternity is interpreted as endless time, as well as something qualitatively different from time, in the sense of timelessness.163

In expressions such as "at all times," the plural of time has the meaning of "always" in all three languages. Furthermore, "times" characterizes the change and the succession of different periods, such as old, difficult, stormy, changing, and new times. Particularly in German, the plural often appears, even at this point, to be a result of the requirements of rhyme. In Swedish, one likes to speak of eternal time and also of eternal times,164 which corresponds to the occasional use of "eternal ages"165 in the AHB.166 "New times" can have a time-immanent as well as a time-transcendent meaning, that is, either they are new periods within time, or they signal a complete transition into eternity.167

If time is placed in relation to eternity, it often occurs according to a clear pattern. Time does not necessarily have a negative character, but its temporary nature is seen more or less as a comfortable prelude to heavenly peace and songs of praise.168 This time-eternity perspective based on the pattern "here the (preparation) time—there the peace" has a long tradition in classical hymns. It is based upon a distinction between time and eternity that is not always strictly expressed in the terminology, but which can be verified by the comparison of the characteristics of time and eternity. Time is short and fraught with difficulty; eternity means peace.169 In time, one is encouraged to "watch, pray, and fight,"170 while in eternity, one speaks of coming home, of songs of praise, of restfulness and peace.171 While time can signify torment, eternity is comfort.172 In eternity, no one ages; and, indeed, there is simultaneity with God.173 Darkness, coverings, and veils belong to time, whereas clarity is the mark of eternity.174 In short, time corresponds to night;175 eternity symbolizes morning, day, and summer.176

However, I do not wish to give the impression that time has been described in a purely unfavorable manner. The classical hymns certainly know how to distinguish between good and splendid times on the one hand, and evil and bad times on the other; but, due to their preliminary nature, both are defined by eternity, and each, in its own way, is at its service.177 The bad times, on the one hand, strengthen eternity's dimensions of comfort and hope: The more wretched one's time is in the vale of tears, the brighter the brilliant glow of eternity.178 Good times, on the other hand, vastly increase the expectations for eternity: If it is so lovely now, just imagine what it will be like then!179

A feature common to many hymns, particularly older ones, is therefore the primacy of eternity. The quality of time is not defined in reference to itself, but rather by its subordination to eternity.

Ein Tag, der sagt dem andern, mein Leben sei ein Wandern zur großen Ewigkeit.

O Ewigkeit, so schöne, mein Herz an dich gewöhne, mein Heim ist nicht in dieser Zeit.180

This stanza by Tersteegen—like the quote from Gerhardt in the title of this section—expresses something that can also be found in other hymns. The eternal home awaits the pilgrim who has dwelt on earth like a stranger from a better land.181

This alternative relatedness of time and eternity under the primacy of eternity is expressed in three different types of relations. First, one finds the relation of a successive movement of time to eternity with the more or less clearly expressed desire for time to make room for the dawning of eterni-ty.182 Second, one can also observe an interaction of time and eternity, which, in turn, is realized in two different directions. At times, this interaction travels from time in the direction of eternity; at other times, it moves from eternity toward time. In the first case, time exhibits tendencies to merge into eternity. Something happens that, either by blocking or transforming, brings time to an end.

För domsbasunens gälla ljud skall rummets murar falla. All tid skall bli ett enda nu, ty tidens ur skall stanna . . .183

The interaction in the other direction causes an event that allows time to progress, but enriches it with eternity.

In die Wirrnis dieser Zeit fahre, Strahl der Ewigkeit; zeig den Kämpfern Platz und Pfad und das Ziel der Gottesstadt.184

This entrance of eternity into time is also described in less warlike metaphorical language. At times, such talk is linked to the Incarnation,185 and, at other times, to the Resurrection186 of Christ. Love is described as eternal life amidst all of the change here on earth.187 This means that the filling of time with eternity can occur constantly without a connection to specific key events.188 This type of interaction leads to an adjustment of the perspective of life in time and to an assurance of the goal and meaning of temporal life.

In the third type of relation between time and eternity, one encompasses the other. Eternity surrounds time,189 which, like an island, lies in the sea of eternity or, conversely, as an inland sea is surrounded by the shores of eternity.190 Time is born of eternity and returns to it:

Du Schöpfer aller Wesen, du Lenker aller Zeit, die Woche, die gewesen, kehrt heim zur Ewigkeit.191

As noted earlier, in the two books that contain primarily more recent hymns, there is a noticeable lack of interest in eternity. In the SA, the theme of eternity hardly appears at all.192 Instead, the here and now is more important. If, in the past, earthly life was subordinated to otherworldly eternity, eternity is now categorized as being in this world.193 Whereas the unrest of the times was previously contrasted to the peacefulness of eternity, now we are dealing with peace in a time that is running out:

Jesus, hjälp oss finna tid ... I var bradska skapa frid . . .194

The emphasis is on "hope for today."195 Hymns that deal with suffering are not content to wait for eternity; instead, they seek hope and assurance in the present.196 The heavenly feast is less the goal in itself than the model for shaping the present-day world:

In praise of God meet duty and delight, angels and creatures, men and spirits blest: in praise is earth transfigured by the sound and sight of heaven's everlasting feast.197

The experience of being part of a threatened creation has contributed to an enhanced importance of this-worldliness. Eternal salvation can no longer be thought of exclusively as the eternal life of Christians who have died. In order for it to be salvation, it must also include the liberation of a frightened creation. Hope is not oriented toward otherworldly eternity, but rather toward an eighth day of creation, a flourishing future for the earth.198 Thus, one achieves a kind of reconciliation of differences in the concepts eternity and time. Eternity enjoys an increasing level of immanence; it is increasingly at the service of time, in order to improve or ennoble it:

Minns att var sekund

är en liten stund av evigheten hos Gud, och när dagen lang du hör faglars sang, hör du himmelens egna ljud. . . .

. . . minns att rätt och frid i var egen tid ska fa spegla Guds kärleks lag. Sa lev Guds nu. . . .199

The passages cited here do not provide a definitive verdict on the question of whether they represent an expression of the trivialization of the relationship between time and eternity or a carefully considered theological position. However, this stanza is not an isolated case. In a hymn of springtime, for example, it says that we small creatures stand before greatness and humbly see eternity in all things.200

Time appears to swell, and even to absorb eternity into itself. The sovereign privilege of interpreting life in time is something that has apparently been lost from eternity. One might even question whether a reversal in correlations has taken place. If, in the past, eternity was the authority to which time had to answer, then now, eternity is forced to give an account, before the forum of time, of what it is capable of performing.

From this perspective, the words bis ich dich nach dieser Zeit lieb und lob in Ewigkeit (until, after this time, I will love and praise you in eternity) by Paul Gerhardt appear to belong to a completely different world. An eternity seems to lie between his view of the world and the enthusiasm of Jonas Jon-son:

Himmel pa jorden, här far vi leva, älska och ge, burna av glädje . . . Öva er barn, att leva i Anden, himlen är här, evig i tiden!201

Here, there is little to remind us of the endless, qualitative difference between eternity and time for which dialectical theology had once argued.202 It remains to be asked: What was and is the function of the rhetoric regarding eternity? And how does God relate to time and eternity?

"ihm gehört der Raum, die Zeit, sein ist auch die Ewigkeit"203—Space, Time, and Eternity Before turning to the question of the relationship of God to time, I will look at the relationships between space, time, and eternity. First, one notices that the combination of time and space occurs almost exclusively in hymns of the twentieth century.204 It does not occur at all in GL. Pspo speaks repeatedly of space and frequently of time, but it does not combine the two concepts.205

In Swedish, there are two terms for space, namely, rum, which means space and room, and, rymd, which refers to space and outer space. This corresponds more or less to the use of place and space in the two English-language books. Rymd is used primarily in hymns that were either written between 1960 and 1984 or revised during the same period to include the word rymd.206 What was originally only an earthly and inner-temporal per spective is expanded by such a revision into a cosmic perspective.207 Surprisingly, this expansion appears to have been revoked in Pspo. Instead of using the cosmological perspective, here we see a focus on the interior world of the individual.208

Otherwise, the intensification of space travel during that period has surely also contributed to the shift of perspective in the direction of the cosmic. The following lines are based on the hymn "Great God, Our Source and Lord of Space," which was finished by the American George Utech during the year when the first human being landed on the moon:

Gott, unser Ursprung, Herr des Raums, du schufst aus unbegrenzter Macht den Stoff, darin sich Feuer regt. Du hast der Sterne Glut entfacht . . .

Du selbst bist Flamme, Gott, du bist die Liebe, die in Christus brennt. Sie wacht, wenn der Gedanken Lauf das All durchmißt, das Element. Führ uns an atomarer Nacht vorüber, hilf der Hoffnung auf.209

The content is related to a hymn in the AHB:

God, who stretched the spangled heavens, infinite in time and place, flung the suns in burning radiance through the silent fields of space, we thy children, in thy likeness, share inventive powers with thee:

great Creator, still creating, teach us what we yet may be.

We have conquered worlds undreamed of since the childhood of our race, known the ecstasy of winging through uncharted realms of space, probed the secrets of the atom, yielding unimagined power, facing us with life's destruction or our most triumphant hour.210

Our entrance into the atomic and space ages opened up new aspects of theology and anthropology. Thus, when one speaks in numerous doxologi-cal contexts of the "Lord of space and time," rather than of the "Lord in eternity," this may well be due to the topicality of (outer) space:

Father, Lord of all creation, ground of Being, Life and Love; . . . yours is every hour's existence, sovereign Lord of time and space.211

One finds the doxological function of space and time in both christo-logical and Trinitarian contexts.212 Of the Son, it says:

Creation sings a new song to the Lord, the universal energies rejoice, through all the magnitudes of space and time creatures proclaim the grandeur of Christ.213

If the mention of "space and time" here serves to replace traditional eternity terminology, then we encounter the expression "place and time" in Brian Wren in the opposite context. In the hymn "Christ Is Alive," the risen Christ, who comes here from the distant past in Palestine and triumphs over every place and time, claims the here and now. He is not enthroned in the distant heavens, but is rather present in the midst of daily life, in order, in his Spirit, to realize his joy, justice, and love throughout this and all future ages214—a kind of immanent Christology from the past.

Jerusalem is the city that stands high above space and time, with joys beyond measure and transcendent peace, as is recounted in the Swedish rendition of Pierre Abelard's hymn, "O quanta, qualia sunt illa sabbata."215 A look at the Latin text216 shows that the sublimity over space and time does not have a direct correlation here. Instead, we are dealing with an interpretation set against the horizon of a modern worldview, just as is found in Olov Hartman's revised version of Dies irae, the Day of Wrath, where there is neither time nor space.217 In Hartman's version, the universe and the sea tremble, the walls of space fall, the clocks of time stop, and time becomes a single now.218 The thirteenth-century Latin text, which can probably be traced back to Thomas von Celano, knows nothing of this.219

Hartman is not entirely consistent, however, with regard to the end of time. In a text from 1979, he makes God the one who, in death, recreates life for ages and worlds to come.220 How these new ages and worlds will react on the day of the big collapse of space and time is a question that must remain open here. It may be that Hartman, who died in 1982, did not have enough time to think through, and poetically express, the theme of "(outer) space and time," a topic that he frequently mentioned, though it was so new. His basic intent, however, was clearly expressed in his creed from 1970:

Vi tror att Gud ar mer an varlden och rymd och tid, den forste och den siste av allt som finns. Nar varlden stortar samman ar han vart liv.221

In summary, one can say that, as existential conditions of the world, space, and time occur more frequently in more recent texts, where they occasionally replace eternity terminology; that God has a different relationship to space and time than God has to human beings; and that, at some point, something highly dramatic will happen to space and time. Apart from this, one cannot say anything more precise. Hoping for greater clarity, let us therefore now ask about the relationship of time to God, who, in the words of Rudolf Alexander Schröder, ". . . prepares the world according to an inscrutable plan . . . who behind time and measures, which awe the mind, prepares the beautiful streets . . . that lead to the eternal present, where perfect clarity is revealed to all . . ."222

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