Hchster Trster in der Zeit321Spirit and Time

The Spirit is discussed only rarely in connection with time and eternity. Nevertheless, one can determine four different time-eternity relations of the Spirit. First, according to Gen. 1.2b, there are allusions to the presence of the Spirit at the time of creation. Second, the eternal communion with the Father and the Son is mentioned. The presence of the Spirit in time is the Spirit's third task, which is followed, fourth, by the Spirit's work on the Day of Judgment.

At the beginning of time, God's Spirit lay over the night of chaos.322 The Spirit's presence at that time is the reason and the occasion for also requesting its work in the present. The Spirit is eternal and powerful,323 it emanates eternally from the Father and the Son,324 and it is one in an eternal bond of love with the Father and the Son.325 In time, the Spirit acts to cleanse, to heal, and to give life.326 It provides comfort,327 brings near that which is becoming, that which is, and that which was;328 and it connects times and human beings in a never-ending fellowship.329 At last, the Spirit's works are directed toward eternity in the distant future: The Spirit awakens on the Day of Judgment330 and helps us to inherit "des ewgen Lebens Haus" (the house of eternal life).331

"sie eilt dahin, wir halten nichts in Händen"332 —Human Beings and Time The basic human experience of time is its flowing away. In all three languages, the image of the stream occurs.

. . . Wie ein Strom beginnt zu rinnen und mit Laufen nicht hält innen, so fährt unsre Zeit von hinnen.333

Transitoriness is the basic theme of human existence, for: "Hin geht die Zeit, her kommt der Tod" (Time flows away, and death approaches);334 and the human day in time is but a fleeting dream.335 This experience causes a trace of resignation to resonate in some of the hymns; it even elicits ter-ror.336 Faith processes the experience of life as an existence predetermined to die in three ways. It finds security in that which is constant within the changes of time, it longs for time to be superseded by eternity,337 or it approaches the ethical challenges of this age in the conscious realization that all time is always God's time.338 In addition to Godself, the Church can also be constant.339 The longing for eternity is primarily a solution provided by older hymns, whereas twentieth-century hymns instead tend to draw ethical conclusions.

One of the main problems of time for the modern person is the lack of time. A contemporary who feels hurried and stressed asks for time for the essentials of life.340 For his or her ancestors, the big problem was, primarily, evil, dangerous, aimless, and faithless times. They did not ask for more time, but rather for shorter times of testing, protection from epidemics, and from periods with high costs of living.341 For this reason, devout submis-siveness is depicted as the ideal image of previous ages; one submits to the fate of the times and entrusts time to God.342

Hymns of various periods tell of the change from bad to good times.

Time becomes good because the day of salvation, the time of grace, dawns brightly in the heart of the believer.343 Goodness does not appear to be a characteristic of time per se; rather, it is something that time is granted through divine promise and divine action.344 Only divine activity can qualify time as truly good time. The flowing away, that is, time's transitoriness, which is basically experienced as negative, appears, on the other hand, to belong to the essence of time itself. What human beings experience as the destructive power of time is thus made relative—from the human perspective—by the subsequent qualification of time as a time of grace. This qualification accomplished by the saving acts of God in Christ also finds a partner in a preexistent qualification of time by divine foreknowledge:

Lang, ehe wir geboren, hast du uns angesehn! "Sie sinds, die vor den Toren des Lebens wartend stehn. Gebt ihnen Raum . . ."345

Divine, loving foreknowledge lends time a connection to eternity, so to speak, from the very beginning, and thus creates trust in the beings who are subject to all the destructive powers of transitoriness. On this basis, on the one hand, hope for an increasingly better understanding of divine truth is possible;346 and, on the other hand, an ethically responsible management of time is provided. It is necessary to be watchful,347 to make use of the brief time that one has,348 and to use it properly,349 as well as to heed the "signs of the times."350 Those who are rushed and pressed should take time to stop351 and live in God's now.352 Daily life should be a liturgy that celebrates the victory of Jesus each and every day.353 As already mentioned, in more recent hymns, times of suffering are no longer dealt with by being content to wait for eternal peace; rather, one strives to search and find meaning in the pres-


Two hymns from the Catholic tradition mention a special time that serves as a place of purification, namely, the interim state of purgatory.355

As already established, the otherworldliness of eternity has moved increasingly into the background during the twentieth century. It does not disappear, but time, growing in significance at its side, distinguishes itself as the habitat of human beings. Kurt Marti expresses an extremely radical this-worldliness in his text from 1986:

In uns kreist das Leben, das uns Gott gegeben, kreist als Stirb und Werde dieser Erde.356

It is a matter of hope for life, hope for the time that is and will come,357 for "Gott hat uns diese Erde gegeben, dass wir auf ihr die Zeit bestehen" (God gave us this earth on which to stand the test of time),358 and "[w]enn wir heute mutig wagen, auf Jesu Weg zu gehn, werden wir in unsern Tagen den kommenden Frieden sehn" (if today we courageously dare to follow the path of Jesus, we will see the coming peace in our days).359 Here, however, one must act in faith, since feelings allow us to enjoy for only brief moments that which, in reality, we possess all the time.360 Contrary to appearances, the future is already now real:

Redan är du den du en gang skall bli:

For "[d]er Himmel, der kommt, grüßt schon die Erde, die ist, wenn die Liebe das Leben verändert" (the heaven to come already greets the earth that exists, when love transforms life).362

When their sojourn in the habitat of time is finally over, then people "gar ur tiden" (they will leave time)363—as the Swedish language expresses it in a synonym for "dying." Until that time, however, the shaping of a lifetime is, to a great degree, the responsibility of human beings; and this also entails special risks. Human self-assertion leads, namely, to an attack on God's sovereignty. A hymn from the 1960s speaks of this dilemma:

Wir wollen leben und uns selbst behaupten.

Doch deine Freiheit setzen wir aufs Spiel.

Nach unserm Willen soll die Welt sich ordnen.

Wir bauen selbstgerecht den Turm der Zeit.364

As a consequence of such Babylonian tower-building, we are dependent upon God's grace again and again:

von gestern und morgen sprich uns los.365

Thus, a person set free from the past and the future could then finally live in the now of the present, which in turn, according to Augustine,366 would be tantamount to a life in eternity.

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