A very happy Birthday to all those born this day – especially bloggers on vacation. Many Happy returns Christopher!

Birth is far less controversial than death it seems. There are no arguments about whether there is life after birth, although maybe there should be! However, I wonder if the question about life after death might be helpfully shifted if we ask the question: “What about life before birth?”

The tricky thing about eternity is that eternity is not a time. It is not a long time, or a short time, it is beyond time. We don’t really have a chance of fully understanding this because our brains work within the category of time – time is built-in to how we think. We are used to the world happening as a stream of events that follow each other. Birth, life, death, from our vantage point happen sequentially in time.  But the insight offered by Christianity and other spiritual traditions is that birth, life, and death also have an eternal aspect to them.   They are all held in a cosmic Now, the eternity that is beyond time.

Birth is now.
Life is now.
Death is now.

Perhaps this reminds us of the “Mystery of Faith” that we proclaim as part of the Eucharistic mystery:
Christ has died
Christ is risen
Christ will come again.

From the point of view of eternity, the Mystery of course is always unfolding right now.  Christ is dying, Christ is rising, Christ is coming again.  We are being born, we are living, we are dying.  Of course, from the perspective of time this is obviously does not correspond to our experience.

So where do we experience eternity?  That is a wonderful question.  I suspect we all will have different answers.  But they will all be experiences.  The sense that time is held in eternity is not something that really can be explained or argued for or against.  It can only be experienced.  Which brings me back to birth.

Birth, for me, is the experience that new life has emerged from apparently nothing.  Oh, high school biology will tell us all about gametes, and meiosis and mitosis, those processes by which an egg and a sperm come together and eventually make a baby, but nowhere in that mechanical process is “life” imparted.  It is not just the transferring of “life” from the parents because birth is the experience that something new has emerged.  The life of mom and dad are still there and there is now a new thing with life of its own.

What about life before birth?

Perhaps that question can help get us unstuck from all the concretized metaphors about what happens after death.   It seems to me that the symbol of “Heaven” is one of our linguistic placeholder that points towards a reality that is beyond time and space.  All language, therefore, about eternity or Heaven, is necessarily metaphorical from the side of time.

But because we experience ourselves in time are we bound there?  How can we experience eternity from within time?  That, it seems to me, is the single purpose at the heart of all religious tradition.  For, throughout history, humans have discovered that there are symbols and rituals that reliably allow the ocean of eternity to break through our experience in time.  Or it might sometimes feel like we are being cast out of time and into eternity.

For Christians, out of this Christ consciousness that has one foot in eternity and one in time comes the proclamation that the Kingdom of God (eternity) is at hand.  Out of this Life that bridges time and eternity comes the gift that bread and wine, food for our earthly lives, can with intention also feed our eternal consciousness.  Out of this Love comes the revelation that whatever we do to each other we also do to ourselves.

Where do you experience eternity?