“There was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.” – Lk. 2:36-38

It seems very human to look at our lives as always in a perpetual flux, always transitioning from one stage in life to the next: graduating from college, building a career, discovering our vocation, finding the right partner, having children, raising children, retiring, rediscovering our passions, and ultimately giving our life away. Even in between the stages, there are various checkpoints. The unique road we map out for ourselves, or perhaps feel forced upon us by others, has a specific path, ordering, and appropriate timing. Our lives resemble a giant arc…never level, never still. Personally, I find it tempting to either look back at the past with nostalgia or even a tinge of regret and to look forward with anticipation hoping that tomorrow will bring about a fulfillment that is missing today.

I was recently stirred during mass when the phase, “In the fullness of time…” in the fourth Eucharistic Prayer piqued my imagination. On the surface, this idea of “fullness of time” seems to diminish the value of the present moment and conveys the notion that the present moment is less than some appointed time in the future when it will be full. However, this analysis confuses chronos time (clock time measured in seconds) with kairos time (right time, perfect time, God’s time). Living fully present can be challenging, particularly during the times when I am grieving or longing for a wholeness. However, it is those times that are pregnant with new birth and new life. The present moment becomes a gestation period, and furthermore, it is not “lesser” than the birth, but rather it is vital to it. My inchoate yearnings are given a chance to grow and mature when I plant myself in the “here and now.” With that view, each moment lived fully in the present is its own “fullness of time” – kairos time.

The prophetess Anna in today’s Gospel understood the distinction between chronos and kairos time. Although advanced in years, she waited patiently and with gratitude, a key ingredient to living in the present, for the birth of the child who would come to bring salvation to the world. Living in kairos time means living with faith that God/grace/beauty is in each precious moment. It also trusts that our wholeness is not derived from what we have accomplished nor how far along we are on our road but that our wholeness comes from God who walks by our side.

Lord Jesus, you implore us to not worry about our needs and future because our heavenly Father will provide. Help us to seek first your kingdom in each present moment.

Michael Jamnongjit