EG 222-223: Time Is Greater Than Space

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdalenePope Francis offers principle number one of four, “Time Is Greater Than Space.” What does that mean? You can get a greater context online here: Evangelii Gaudium.

Or we can read a section or two and discuss here:

222. A constant tension exists between fullness and limitation. Fullness evokes the desire for complete possession, while limitation is a wall set before us. Broadly speaking, “time” has to do with fullness as an expression of the horizon which constantly opens before us, while each individual moment has to do with limitation as an expression of enclosure. People live poised between each individual moment and the greater, brighter horizon of the utopian future as the final cause which draws us to itself. Here we see a first principle for progress in building a people: time is greater than space.

Make sense? It reads like Ignatian-speak to me.

It involves some important qualities. First, patience. We cannot expect to produce peace by sheer will power or even personal charm. It takes time to build trust and lay the foundations for strong relationships, not to mention peace.

223. This principle enables us to work slowly but surely, without being obsessed with immediate results. It helps us patiently to endure difficult and adverse situations, or inevitable changes in our plans. It invites us to accept the tension between fullness and limitation, and to give a priority to time.

In other words, short attention spans and no delayed gratification:

One of the faults which we occasionally observe in sociopolitical activity is that spaces and power are preferred to time and processes. Giving priority to space means madly attempting to keep everything together in the present, trying to possess all the spaces of power and of self-assertion; it is to crystallize processes and presume to hold them back.

Even in church circles, I experience people who want quick results. There’s a lot of skepticism for planting seeds, laying groundwork for the long haul.

Giving priority to time means being concerned about initiating processes rather than possessing spaces. Time governs spaces, illumines them and makes them links in a constantly expanding chain, with no possibility of return. What we need, then, is to give priority to actions which generate new processes in society and engage other persons and groups who can develop them to the point where they bear fruit in significant historical events. Without anxiety, but with clear convictions and tenacity.

Think about the conflicts within the Church. How often do you think people, hierarchy or ordinary, clergy or lay, orthodox or heretics–people on both/all sides, underestimate the privilege of time?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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2 Responses to EG 222-223: Time Is Greater Than Space

  1. Devin says:

    Certainly the general gist of what he saying is true, but this segment I always have to reread a few times. He defines time well, and his last paragraph that you posted is especially insightful, but his use of the term space is rather murky and undefined. It works well if you interpret paragraph 222 to equate “space” with “moment” but I think the pontiff means something more. Does “space” have a great significance in Ignatian thought?

    • Todd says:

      What’s interesting is that my sense of the Spiritual Exercises is rather to focus on the present moment, but to seek the thread of God’s greater plan and how the disciple fits into that. “Space” is something a person experiences. “Time” is something at which the person aims.

      Between you, me, and the readers, it took me 2-3 readings through and I’m still not sure the terms fit, though I think I see what Francis is aiming at.

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