Monday, September 29, 2014

Genesis, Time, Aeon and Eternity

By Vladimir Lossky

In Genesis we read that the heavens and the earth, the universe in its entirety in fact, was created "in the beginning". St. Basil saw this as the beginning of time; but "as the beginning of a road is not yet the road, and the beginning of a house is not yet a house, so the beginning of time is not yet time, not even the smallest part of it."1 If the divine will created "in the beginning", it means that "its action was instantaneous and outside of time"; but with the universe time also begins. According to St. Maximus it is motion, the change which is proper to created things whose very origin was in change, which is also the origin of time, the form of sensible being (τα αισθητά). 

It is time whose nature is to begin, to endure, and to have an end; however, there is also another form of created existence outside of time, and which is proper to intelligible being (τα νοητά): the aeon - αιώνι. "The aeon", says St. Maximus, "is motionless time, while time is the aeon measured according to motion."2 The intelligible is not eternal: it has its beginning "in the age" (εν αιώνι), in passing from not-being to being, but it remains nonetheless without any change, being part of a non-temporal part of existence. The aeon is outside of time, but having, like time, a beginning, it is commensurable to it. The divine eternity alone is incommensurable: in relation both to time and to the aeon.

1. "Hexaemeron", Homily 1, 6; P.G. XXIX 16 C.

2. "De ambiguis"; P.G. XCI 1164 BC.

Source: The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, p. 102.