Monday, November 28, 2011

Saint Ephrem of Edessa on why we do not know the exact time of the Second Coming

To prevent his disciples from asking the time of his coming, Christ said: About that hour no one knows, neither the angels nor the Son. It is not for you to know times or moments. He has kept those things hidden so that we may keep watch, each of us thinking that he will come in our own day. If he had revealed the time of his coming, his coming would have lost its savor: it would no longer be an object of yearning for the nations and the age in which it will be revealed. He promised that he would come but did not say when he would come, and so all generations and ages await him eagerly.

Though the Lord has established the signs of his coming, the time of their fulfillment has not been plainly revealed. These signs have come and gone with a multiplicity of change; more than that, they are still present. His final coming is like his first. As holy men and prophets waited for him, thinking that he would reveal himself in their own day, so today each of the faithful longs to welcome him in his own day, because Christ has not made plain the day of his coming.

He has not made it plain for this reason especially, that no one may think that he whose power and dominion rule all numbers and times is ruled by fate and time. He described the signs of his coming; how could what he has himself decided be hidden from him? Therefore, he used these words to increase respect for the signs of his coming, so that from that day forward all generations and ages might think that he would come again in their own day.
St. Ephrem of Edessa, Deacon [373]

Unlike some Christian groups, Anglicans do not concern themselves with trying to determine the exact time of Christ’s coming, precisely because he has told us not to (and because St. Paul also made clear the foolishness of such an endeavor). Rather, we are called to live our lives in the continuous expectation of his coming. For us, the Second Coming is a revelation of God’s truth, and something we earnestly desire. The Christian does not have to wait for this event in time in order to begin to experience it. We may do so even now by reading God’s word to us in Scripture, receiving the sacraments, doing the works of the Gospel, and examining our conscience and repenting from sin.

The eagerness St. Ephrem points to is a desire for a union of will and life in God, not a timetable for self-vindication. That eagerness is essential to the spirit of Advent—and to the Christian life always, in every season and place.

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