Living in an ‘As-if’ Time

How can we see time as Christians? Is it is not a chain of linear now-points of the Greeks who have put it forward from the time of Aristotle. The best way to raise the question of time is to raise the time of forgiveness. What is this eventful temporality of forgiveness? The time of forgiveness is a kind of double time. It involves the painful past, the time of the skandalon, the time of the offence or the sin (amarte), and the wiping away of this tainted past. The past retains us. It holds us and has the power to call us back. But forgiveness frees us. The past of forgiveness cannot be understood in the light of classical phenomenology. In forgiveness, the past is let be passed as past. The offence is pardoned and we have to abdicate the power that we have over the person forgiven to call him to repay the debts of the past. This means forgiveness wipes the ledger clean and sets the person free from the chains of accountability of the past offences. This means our offences no longer are hanging over us. They are no longer held between us. But we have to remember that forgiveness does not annihilate our past. The past still exists but it exists as forgiven

Forgiveness is the opposite of repression. Repression keeps that which we deny into a recurring play. Forgiveness is not a denial. It is an affirmation of the offence but it is not held against the offender because it is forgiven. Forgiveness gives us new eyes to see the offender and enables us to offer a possibility to embrace new life to the offender. Forgiveness introduces us to what may be called ‘as-if’ time. We are to live ‘as-if’ the offence has not taken place. Of course, the offence did happen and is retained. If it had not happened then there is nothing to forgive. The offence is retained and forgiven. This means the forgiven past in to simply retained or wiped away. It is retained as forgiven. It is retained as wiped way. When forgiveness is real, we disarm the past and de-politicize the memory of the offence. This means the past is not annihilated or forgotten but is given a new meaning. This meaning enables us to live ‘as-if’ the offence has not happened. Therefore, the ‘as-if’ time introduced by forgiveness puts the past that is forgiven under erasure. This means forgiveness enables us to enter the impossible time. Living with the possibility either represses the offence or holds the offender for the payment of debts. Living in an impossible time enables us to live in the metanoetic time.

Hannah Arendt says, ‘resentment and revenge pull the strings of the past ever tighter and tie us up into knots, but forgiveness cuts things loose, sets them free of the past.’ Resentment and revenge decide to “get even,” to settle accounts, to balance the books in a rigorous “economy” of exchange, to hold on and tighten the screws of the past, never to let it go unless and until it is paid back. Revenge says, ’Don’t get mad, get even’: that is as vicious, as deeply unbiblical a sentiment as we can imagine. But forgiving is different. It let us let go of the burden of the past. This letting go offers freedom to live a new life. Therefore, forgiveness is a time of re-birth. Forgiveness lives the metanoetics time. John Caputo says, ‘Metanoetic time is a time of rebirth, renewal, and transformation, of radical metamorphosis and alterability’.

It is not a Hegelian time that is moving progressively forward through the logic of dialectics. Nor it is Aristotelian time that moves smoothly across time letting the potencies of substance come to their acts. It is not the time of ousia/ presence that persists and presides over transient changes. Such a time is marked by permanent presence. It is also not a time of anamnesis of Plato that rekindles our memory on the experience of the copies of the ideas from the world of ideas.

It is a time of upheaval. It is a disruptive time. It is the time of the crucified one. It is a time of incessant rise and fall, spectacular gain and loss, tragic suffering and sometimes unsettling setbacks that leave us hopeless, which summon up hope against hope. This is the time that is captured in the amazing grace that Jesus won for us through his suffering and death on the cross. This means metanoetic time is disruptive. It does not flow smoothly. It surprises us with its metamorphic movement and not bewitches us with the hylomorphic world. It is a time of transformation that is continuously disturbed by the impossible. It is marked by actions to which no potency and its teleology of acts prepared us. It is a world that takes us into the impossible where we are living under the power of the Spirit of alternation. Therefore, it is the courage to live in the ‘as if’ time that waits for the coming of the kingdom. It prays. Let the kingdom come! Let it happen! Let it arrive! Let the Spirit come. The kingdom is in the mode of coming. Its coming cannot end. It will end only at the Eschaton. We can only say come and recite a welcoming Amen.

Life in the ‘as-if’ time of the kingdom is living with expectant hope and discernment of incessant coming of the kingdom. Therefore, we have the challenge to deconstruct the dialectical flow of time of Hegel as well as the time of Aristotle that witnesses the journey of everything from their potency to act. We have to again deconstruct the logocentric permanent time that presides over the transient world. Deconstruction of this kind opens us to the time of God. It is an impossible time because it is flooded with God. It is a time of faith that both lights up our path and becomes our spiritual energy to live in the ‘as-if’ time of grace. Living in a possible time does not need faith. But living in the impossible time that challenges us to ride the flow of the ‘as-if’ time needs grace. It is the impossible time. With faith all things are possible. We can dwell in the impossible time in the power of our faith.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao