Recentring on the End
(Chapter 15 of Christendom Awake by Fr Aidan Nichols)
With the Russian Christian philosopher-theologian Evgeny Lamp we must take care not to fall into a kind of Monophysitism on these matters, supposing that the Eternal swallows up time, such that goal of those who live in time must in every sense be non- or suprtemporal - just as Monophysite Christologies so affirm the divinisation of the humanity assumed by the Word as to leave no continuing room for its creaturely integrity. Neither, following Lampert's other warning signal, must we go to the other extreme of the Christological spectrum and adopt a Nestorian manner of thinking through this inte-relationship. It is not enough to have eternity and time side by side juxtaposed. Rather, revelation's claim - and so the claim echoed by the orthodox - is to uncover time's hidden transcendent meaning.
The key, then, is the Incarnation, which reveals to us that the reaI subjects of
history are God in relation to man, and man in relation to God. Thus personal initiative and personal creativity
(whether divine in God himself, 'theandric'
- divine-human - in Christ, or human in ourselves) are history's primary agencies. This saves us from dreadful
errors about history: from the pessimism which views the historical process as a naturalistically predetermined
evolution which we should just allow to happen since there is nothing very much we can do about it; from the complacency
which declares that history has now 'come to an end', for we are all to be consumerist democrats now; from the optimism which (à la Hegel) treats
history as the progressive self-expression of a corporate mind immanent in the world process and
History is time in the process of acquiring meaning. Other animals live in time Man alone, owing to his peculiar concern with meaning, lives m history - in a time which indicates relations with others, and with the Other, God. Though, manifestly, historical events are exposed to influence from geography, climate, physiology and a host of physical factors, they are lived out by a species which has assimilated its own environment and goes beyond that environment's limits. A civilisation will always be an act of creation.
But what is the task actually addressed to human freedom and creativity? Human capacity is undermineded by the disintegrative temporality of our specific mode of existence. God calls on man to appropriate the End - time's telos - by uniting the world to the Father in the way that the Incarnation of the Son made possible and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit actually achieves. God in Christ created in the fullness of time in his own incarnate,crucified and glorified person that centre from which all that lives must be approached, and not only approached, or understood, but transformed. History is now not only that from which God calls us into his Kingdom; it is also where in Jesus Christ he has come to be with us entering within our limits and into our sufferings, to burst them from within. The poet Hopkins knew this:
Meaningful time - history - is, we may say, both 'vectorial' and 'punctual'. Pace the simplistic 'arrow of time' model typical of NeoPositivism, it needs to be symbolised not only as a directed line receiving its orientation from its end (vectorially) but also (punctually) as a series of points whereby each historic moment on the directed line enjoys its own relation to God, unique, unrepeatable - a relation which may of course be negative, representing judgement, not positive, representing promise - and indeed the cross of Messiah Jesus is supremely both.
Jewish consciousness - the consciousness of Israel - is therefore historical consciousness par excellence just because it conceives history as Providence, a story of divine acts by which God gives meaning to the destiny of his people and, through them, to humankind as a whole, all in view of an ultimate End which will resolve the chronic or 'systemic' problems of life on earth - and notably those which the apocalyptic literature of the Bible itself addresses, evil (its virulence yet stimulus to heroic good), authority (its necessity yet oppressiveness) and time itself (its provision of opportunity, and yet limitations). 
Notice how Israel does not present as unilateral the purposive acting of God. Rather, in her perception, does God allow his own omnipotence to be conditioned by the freedom of human response - though this does not mean that God fails to exercise real power over all things leading them to their appointed End (else he would not be God). What it does mean is that God's determination of events is not mechanistic but personal - allowing for the factor of reciprocity. In no way does the New Testament depart from this picture, except of course by the dramatic breakthrough in which it registers God's new deed in Christ as the revelation of his sovereign will no longer just in message or in providential activity but in the personal hypostasis of the Son. The heart of the New Testament proclamation is that through the Son the Father is leading the whole created universe - cosmos and history - to the ultimate fulfilment of the Kingdom (cf. Eph. 1.9-10). Thus the Fathers of the Church could conceive Providence anew as a Christological 'economy' - a design of the Father to sum up all things in Christ.
The American Lutheran theologian H. Paul Santmire has set out two rhetorical questions, the first of which expects a negative, the second an affirmative, reply.
With the Parousia, for Augustine of Hippo, the whole biophysical realm - the material-vital world - will become transparent to the presence of God as the almighty creativity who originated it, sustained it, and, after its travail in the history of nature, grants its renewal.  For Francis of Assisi the eschatological consummation is anticipated, in a life of childlike simplicity, loving all the creatures of the earth (we note his solicitude tor the less obviously attractive, like worms). Possibly the making of the Christmas crib (a devotion, so historians report, he did not initiate, yet fostered) commended itself precisely as a parable of the 'peaceable Kingdom', with men and beasts in company around the Christ. 
Furthermore, it remains the case for many of those millions who do not live in
the English Home Counties, or other analogues thereof, that raw nature (nature neither cultivated in horticulture,
agriculture and the taming of beasts, nor fabricated in culture) remains as awesome and fearful as ever it was.
There is still a struggle with nature, the earth and the animals, to survive, exercising all man's gifts of ingenuity
and not always succeeding then. Here too, when the conflict is unequal in another direction the vision of the pacific
kingdom of the End is an incentive to hope.
As a Jesuit specialist in the 'eschatology' - the doctrine of the ultimate realities - in the Fathers has commented:
Augustine's caveat did not prevent his fellow Catholics from doing what he advised them against - for instance the German hermit Bernard of Thuringia in the decades before the first millennium, the year 1000. But on the whole the sacramentalism of Catholic doctrine (the incarnate Lord is already present in history, communicating his holiness through the Church and her sacraments and redeeming, in the transfigured humanity of his saints, soul and body, the original creation) meant that Catholicism has been less hospitable to the more excited forms of apocalyptic speculation found in some kinds of Protestantism.
It would be a mistake to suppose, however, that Catholicism is not waiting for an apocalyptic End. For a true climax to history, a genuine consummation of all things, must necessarily involve a divine actlon which crowns the saving interplay of divine freedom and human freedom redeemed in Christ, that interplay which gives time its eternal significance along the line of its course. If for Augustine it is true both that 'the End is already here' (concealed, yet really present, in the power of Christ's Godmanhood) and that 'the End is coming', we must, conclude that for him the 'way to the End is in the End itself'.  What we celebrate, at this bimillennium, in the Incarnation is precisely the coming of the One who is at the last to consummate all things. Eschatology is not so much about ta eschata, the 'final realities' in the neuter plural, as it is about ho eschatos, the 'ultimate one' in the personal singular, Jesus Christ. Time for us is moving, in the power of the Spirit of the Son, sent from the Father, to that goal, within time and yet beyond it, which is the final revelation of God's glory. Because we live from the Christ who is personally the End and therefore in the End, we should be perfectly familiar with the notion that he will declare himself for what he is at the end of time likewise. At the moment God's Kingdom, present sacramentally in the Church, in her preaching, in the holy signs of her worship, and in her saints, is hidden 'kenotically' - like the Christ of the Nativity, the ministry and the cross - in the ambiguities of time. But then the veil will be rent, and the hitherto invisible presence become plain. We already share in the transfigured cosmos whose nucleus is Christ's risen and ascended body and are activated by its energies. But then we shall see the glorified Saviour as the Lamb of the new temple, the new heavens and new earth where righteousness dwells so as never more to abandon the human (and cosmic) city. Because God is God he must come into his own. He cannot ultimately be defeated. And yet the divine plan for the world, made in the eternal counsels of the Holy Trinity, whose first act is exclusively divine (the creation), and whose second act (the redemption) is exclusively 'the work of God in the incarnate Lord' (though Catholics see a role for a representative woman in the consent thereto of the Blessed Virgin Mary), cannot be fully realised until by a third and final act all time, all history, is taken up into the Eternal through a final resolution of the drama of human freedom in its confrontation with the divine Creator of that freedom (the Trinity) and its divine-human Liberator (the Trinity in Jesus Christ). And as history enters the Kingdom, so, as we have seen, will nature likewise, for human beings are never intended to live without their bodies (both the soul and the body are the 'I') and so in separation from their material environment.
This is the truth which the inspired writer of the Book of Revelation, the last and climactic work of the New Testament canon, wished us to know. Reworking images and scenes from the prophetic books of the Old Testament - 'bright images from earlier prophetic works laid alongside powerful new icons of a sovereign God and his redeemed people',  St John presents the crucified and risen Christ as the centre of a 'New Jerusalem' in a universe refashioned, when the 'Lamb' - who revealed, by enacting it, the father's sacrificial love in his Incarnation and on the cross - will show himself victorious over evil by his glorious Parousia, and streams of living water flow from his throne for the healing of the nations.
The Great Jubilee: what must be done
What is involved, as the Pope spells out, is confirming our faith (we can call
this the intellectual challenge
of the Jubilee); sustaining our eternal hope (we can call this the spiritual challenge of the Jubilee); and rekindling our charity (we can call this the moral challenge of the Jubilee). Meeting these challenges is possible in the
Jubilee-time if that time arouses in: Christians joyful confidence in grace founded, however, on a sober, realism
about their own past failures and present shortcomings - a joy, then, based on conversion, on the grace of the
forgiveness of sins. The Pope calls on the members of the Church to repent of the 'counter-witness
and scandal' they may have given. Of course, some 'scandal' - literally, a stumbling-block - is evangelically
necessary, for, as the Theologian of the Pontifical Household, the Swiss Dominican Georges Cottier, has pointed
out, the gospel of the cross necessarily 'scandalises' by not only revealing the depths of the love of the self-humiliating God but also requiring us
to transcend the limitations of our own self-enclosed identities in return. But here we are talking of 'the scandal of sin, incitement or bad example [which] brings with it the fall of our brother'. 
In fact, the Pope is thinking especially of crimes committed by the sons and daughters of the Church in her name - and notably any actions which
may have precipitated or hardened schisms, and expressions of intolerance which have harmed rather than served
the cause of truth. At the same time, the Pope is evidently aware that confessing vicariously the sins of other
people , particularly if they are dead and cannot reply for themselves, becomes all too easily a recipe for self-congratulation,
and so he speaks also in this connection of present-day failings of the Church's members, and notably the collusion
they can practise with a false secularism and ethical relativism (thus generating indifference to religious and
moral truth), the spiritual uncertainty into which they fall by (often culpable) ignorance of the Church's theological
doctrine, and the injustices which they can support through neglect of her social doctrine on fundamental human
rights. But since excessive dwelling on these negative features of the Church's life is hardly congruent with the
joy of jubilee, the Pope rounds off his account by reminding his readers of the many Christians who have joyfully
achieved heroic sanctity, or happily given up life itself as martyrs, for the sake of the bliss that lay ahead
of them when their creation reaches its consummation at the End, in Jesus Christ. 
However, the faith which the gospel houses is ultimately one, as is the human race itself. And so, in explaining the three-year structure of the preparation for the Jubilee, John Paul II can explain things relevant to everyone. In the year of the Son, all Catholics were asked to deepen their understanding of the Saviour, the knowledge of Scripture which speaks of him, their appreciation of the grace of their baptism which gave them entry into his life and a basis for unity with other Christians. That year, 1997, was to be par excellence a year of faith. In the year of the Spirit, they were asked to renew their confidence in the Holy Spirit - in his power, notably through the grace of confirmation, to activate the members of the Church for mission, to empower a new evangelisation and vivify our expectation of history's wondrous End. That year, 1998, was to be par excellence a year of hope. In the year of the Father, Catholic Christians - and all Christians who heed this call - are asked to live their lives more fervently as a pilgrimage with their neighbours to the Father's house, to become more deeply converted through the sacrament of penance, and to recommit themselves to being the Christian soul in human civilisation, currently in crisis as this is through the lack of clear moral foundations. The year 1999 is to be, par excellence, a year of charity: that generous, hospitable charity which the eleventh-century German historian and geographer Adam of Bremen considered to be so marked a feature of a people newly converted to the gospel - in the case he was considering, Iceland. 
The Anglo-Welsh poet David Jones wrote of Christ: 'It is easy to miss Him / at the turn of a civilisation.'  What will become of the civilisation of the Western world is a disputed question, but the turn of a millennium is at any rate a good point at which to take stock of the cultural resources that may support the threefold - intellectual, spiritual, ethical - renewal of the Church. For though on the eve of a new millennium we are to look forward, it is characteristic of redeemed time that it abandons nothing of which is precious from the past and carries it forward towards eternity.
An example may help. The present portion of Christendom
Awake was written originally to be spoken in Iceland. In that country
one could think of those vital intuitions which the Gospel either confirme or introduced in Icelandic culture:
the importance of law, since
just rules for acting convey something of the divine mind whose revealed law . the Torah - became incarnate in
Jesus Christ. Not for nothing were 'lawspeakers' the regents of the Icelandic Commonwealth. One thinks
When in Snorri's Edda, Eilifr exchanges the worship of Thor for that of Christ, the latter is acclaimed as 'Rome's mighty king'.  May this initiative for the end of the millennium from the present bishop of Rome find
a resonance in the Church, and among people not only in but also after the year 2000, wherever its rumour is taken.
3. See S. D. O'Leary, Arguing the Apocalypse. A Theory of Millennial Rhetoric (New York, 1994).
4. H. P. Santmire, The Travail of Nature.
The Ambiguous Ecological Promise of Christian Theology (Minneapolis,
1985), pp. 217-18. Cf., D. Burrell, C.S.C. and E. Malits, C.S.C., Original
Peace. Restoring God's Creation (New York and Mahwah, N.J., 1997),
7. R. C. Petry, 'Mediaeval Eschatology and St. Francis of Assisi', Church History
8. B. E. Daley, 'Judgment Day or Jubilee? Approaching the Millenium', America 176. 19 (1997), p. 10. Cf. idem, The Hope of the Early Church. A Handbook of Patristic Eschatology (Cambridge, 1991).
9. Lampert, The Apocalypse of History, p. 44.
10. Daley, 'Judgment Day or Jubilee,' p. 16.
11. Luke 4.16-30.
12. Isaiah 61.2.
13. John Paul II, Tertio Millenio Adveniente, 23, with an internal allusion to Revelation 2.7ff.
16. G. Cottier, 'Counter-witness and Scandal', Tertium
Millenium 1(1996), pp.
18. Ibid., 38.
19. Adam of Bremen, Descriptio Insularum Aquilonis, 35, cited in C. Dawson, Religion and the Rise of Western Culture (London, 1950), p. 114.
20. D. Jones, 'A, a, a, Domine Deus', in idem, The Sleeping Lord and Other Fragments (London, 1974).
21. Cited in D. Stromback, The Conversion of Iceland. A Survey (London, 1975), p. 54