After twenty years, the church I serve is finally installing our stained glass windows. I won’t go into the long complicated history, but let me simply mention that the installation of stained glass windows was an important part of the amalgamation of the two parishes which formed the Anglican Parish of Holy Cross. As I stood in the narthex of the church, the crew installing pane after pane of stained glass, I heard echoing in my heart and mind,
“In the fullness of time . . .”
This is a well known phrase in church circles. We hear it in scripture: “But in the fullness of time God sent his son, born of a woman”; we hear it in our liturgy: “In the fullness of time, reconcile all things in Christ, and make them new…” It speaks beyond the simple appeal to a chronological measurement. Rather, the fullness of time conveys the truth that God intimately dwells within the dynamic of the present moment. It declares an activity as much as it declares a time-frame. Those familiar with greek lexicon will hear the difference between chronos—describing the passage of seconds and minutes—and kairos—time as understood in reference to the activity and will of God. Time is seen in its ‘fullness’ because it is seen in reference to what God is doing in our midst. The fullness of time is a powerful place which shuns all notions of random happenstance. There are no flukes in the fullness of time, only willful and intentional acts of God through which we are invited to experience the movement of the Kingdom. The fullness of time is one of invitation, grace, and miracle.
Yet why is the fullness of time is so often only relegated to the past or future? Why, do we never use this phrase to define the moment in which we find ourselves presently? Are we not still invited into the majestic dynamic of God’s kingdom? Is God not still active in our affairs?
The installation of our stained glass windows challenged me to enter into the present moment with an eye out for God’s presence and activity. Why was this so? Because of the scene depicted in the window being installed. See, the window that was being installed depicts Christ’s Ascension. In glorious colour we see the disciples gathered on the Mount of Olives watching as Jesus, robed in glory, ascends to His heavenly throne. I’m not the hugest fan of stained glass windows, but this window is beautiful. But what is more beautiful than the human artistry that crafted this scene is the fact that this window was installed into our narthex on Ascension Day (the installation was completed about 30 minutes before posting this blog).
Is it a coincidence that the Ascension window happened to be installed on Ascension day? Is it something that occurred outside of any divine design? Am I reading too much into this?
I don’t think so. Just think about it. It didn’t have to be this way. It’s not like the construction crew was consulting our liturgical calendar. The window could have been installed a week before, or a few days after, this particular day. But it wasn’t. In the radical type of faith that risks potential mockery, I believe that Christ so worked with the schedule of construction to allow us a vision of His deep and abiding presence. The installation of the Ascension window, on the very day in which we celebrate the event it depicts, speaks to the reality of Christ’s providence for us. The fullness of time preaches that despite the frenetic chaos of life, and our sometimes inability to discern His presence, The Lord still reigns over heaven and earth.
In his book, Abandonment to Divine Providence (otherwise known as The Sacrament of the Present Moment), Jean Pierre de Caussade writes, “That which is visible might happen to anyone, but the invisible, discerned by faith, is no less than God operating very great things.” Later in the book Caussade states “the present moment is the ambassador of God to declare His mandates.” To deny that the fullness of time can describe our present moment is to suggest that God’s will and plan cannot be found in the intimate tapestry of our lives. It suggests that a window is just a window, a moment is just a moment. This vision of life leaves us simply standing by ourselves wondering when Christ will make His presence known. We rob our lives of divine connectedness and we strip away the possibility of seeing the miraculous activity of God.
Yet God invites us into a deeper reality. To live each moment in the fullness of time is to see life in the context of God’s presence and work. This transforms the ordinary into the holy and coincidence into miracle. Living in the fullness of time opens us up to be continually amazed, inspired, and awe-struck at the movements of God in the most ordinary of places.
May we all continually live in the fullness of time.