Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 20 (God and Time, and the Natural World)

Reading again through Saint Augustine’s “Confessions”: Day 20 (God and Time, and the Natural World)

“A fickle-minded man, whose thoughts were all astray because of his conception of time past, might wonder why you, who are God almighty, Creator of all, Sustainer of all, and Maker of heaven and earth, should have been idle and allowed countless ages to elapse before you finally undertook the vast work of creation. My advice to such people is to shake off their dreams and think carefully, because their wonder is based on a misconception.

How could those countless ages have elapsed when you, the Creator in whom all ages have their origin, had not yet created them? What time could there have been that was not created by you? How could time elapse if it never was?

You are the Maker of all time. If, then, there was any time before you made heaven and earth, how can anyone say that you were idle? You must have made that time, for time could not elapse before you made it.

But if there was not time before heaven and earth were created, how can anyone ask what you were doing ‘then’? if there was no time, there was no ‘then’.

Furthermore, although you are before time, it is not in time that you precede it. If this were so, you would not be before all time. I it s in eternity, which is supreme over time because it is a never-ending present, that you are at once before all past time and eternall al future time. For what is now the future, once it comes, will become the past, whereas you are unchanging, your years can never fail. Your years neither go nor come, but our years pass and others come after them, so that they all may come in their turn. Your years are completely present to you all at once, because they are at a permanent standstill. They do not move on, forced to give way before the advance of others, because they never pass at all. But our years will all be complete only when they have all moved into the past. Your years are one day, yet your day does not come daily but is always today, because your today does not give place to any tomorrow nor does it take the place of any yesterday. Your today is eternity. An this is how the Son, to whom you said I have begotten you this day, was begotten co-eternal with yourself, You made all time; you are before all time; and the ‘time’, if such we may call it, when there was no time was not time at all.

It is therefore true to say that when you had not made anything, there was not time, because time itself was of your making. And no time is co-eternal with you, because you never change; whereas, if time never changed, it would not be time.”

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